Tory fears mount over huge immigration driving voters to Reform UK

Tory fears mount over huge immigration driving voters to Reform UK as ministers ‘squabble over how Rwanda plan can be made legal’ and prepare crackdown on visas

Tory fears are mounting today that huge immigration is driving voters into the arms of Reform UK as ministers squabble over the details of a crackdown.

A poll has shown the party headed by Nigel Farage and Richard Tice recording its highest ever support at 11 per cent.

The BMG Research study suggested that the four-point increase was at the expense of the Conservatives, who were down three points.

The finding – which will heighten concerns about a split in the right-wing vote at the looming election – comes as a closely-watched survey of activists indicated Rishi Sunak has slumped to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings. 

The government is desperately trying to finalise the details of a squeeze on both legal and illegal immigration.

Home Secretary James Cleverly is set to travel to Rwanda within days to seal a new treaty on deporting Channel boat arrivals.

Meanwhile, ministers are still working on ‘watertight’ emergency legislation that can overcome the objections of the Supreme Court to Rishi Sunak’s much-vaunted policy.

A BMG Research poll for the i newspaper has shown Reform UK – headed by Nigel Farage and Richard Tice – on its highest ever support at 11 per cent

 The closely-watched ConservativeHome survey of activists suggests  Rishi Sunak has slumped to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings

There is frantic work taking place on how to curb legal net migration, after the annual level reached an eye-watering record of 745,000

Insiders say the PM is determined to make the new law ‘very robust’ – but there is significantly resistance within government to overriding human rights laws.

Mr Sunak is also expected to authorise millions more pounds to be given to Rwanda to improve its asylum system, one of the key points made by the Supreme Court.

It comes as the latest figures show 1,264 would-be refugees braved icy conditions to cross the Channel in the past week, including 519 on Saturday alone.

The number of illegal migrants reaching the UK this year is now believed to have topped the 28,526 recorded in 2021 – although arrivals are still a third down on the record set last year.

At the same time there is frantic work taking place on how to curb legal net migration, after the annual level reached an eye-watering record of 745,000.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has been pushing for a dramatic increase in the minimum salary for coming to the UK on work visas, as well as moves such as restricting foreign health workers to bringing one dependant with them.

However, Mr Sunak and Mr Cleverly have seemed to strike a different tone, suggesting that numbers are already starting to ease and they have already taken radical action on student dependants. 

The BMG Research polling, for the i newspaper, found Labour’s lead had extended to 16 points, on 43 per cent to 27 per cent for the Tories.

Reform UK had gone from just 7 per cent in mid-October to 11 per cent at the end of last month. That was above the Lib Dems on 10 per cent, and the highest ever detected by BMG. 

Worryingly for Mr Sunak, he has also tumbled to the foot of the regular ConservativeHome Cabinet rankings. His rating on the panel of activists now stands at minus 25.4.

Mr Cleverly has also seen his standing plunge, going from top to well down the bottom half. Kemi Badenoch is now leading the pack. 

The PM announced his new Rwanda approach last month after the Supreme Court dealt a fatal blow to the original plan by ruling that there were ‘substantial grounds’ to believe people put on a one-way flight could be sent on to other countries where they would be unsafe.

The Plan B comprises three parts: a treaty with Rwanda, emergency legislation to declare the country is safe, and a bundle of evidence explaining why anyone sent there would not be mistreated.

There has been intense debate in the Tory party over how far the Bill should go, with more than 20 MPs on the Right demanding what is now known as a ‘full fat’ option.

This would include so-called ‘notwithstanding’ clauses, allowing the Government to ignore the UK’s Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in asylum cases as well as removing the right of migrants to challenge their deportation through judicial review.

A less hardline approach would override human rights law while still allowing challenges by individuals.

But there are concerns that ministers are receiving advice from officials including government lawyers who say they cannot do anything they feel would breach the Civil Service Code such as ignoring human rights laws.

‘It’s anathema to them,’ said one insider. ‘They will say ‘I don’t want to be the lawyer who does this’.

‘Because Mr Cleverly has only been in his new role as Home Secretary for a few weeks, Attorney General Victoria Prentis is playing a major role looking through the draft Bill.

She is understood to have warned that disapplying the ECHR would be unlawful.

A government source said: ‘As the PM said, the British people want action and their patience has been stretched. The Government is up for taking robust measures, providing they work.’ 

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