Minister says Rwanda flight WILL go ahead despite Charles criticism

Slap down for Charles: Ministers insist Rwanda deportation flight WILL go ahead on Tuesday and warn the heir to the throne political outbursts won’t be ‘tolerated’ when he is king after spat with Boris

  • Lewis said that the Government was determined to press ahead with flights 
  • First service to east Africa, scheduled for Tuesday, focus of legal challenge
  • Charles branded them ‘appalling’ in leaked private comments, sparking row

Flights deporting migrants from the UK to Rwanda will go ahead as planned this week despite legal attempts by lawyers to halt them and an astonishing intervention by the Prince of Wales, a minister said today.

Brandon Lewis said that the Government was determined to press ahead with the first of the controversial flights to east Africa, scheduled for Tuesday.

Last week a judge rejected an attempt by rights campaigners and trade union leaders to have the flight halted, with an appeal scheduled to take place tomorrow. 

The flights, revealed in April under a £120million deal with the Kagame regime, have faced vocal criticism. 

And yesterday Charles became the most high profile critic to speak out, sparking a major row with ministers who feel he should emulate the Queen and keep quiet on political issues.

The heir to the throne often treads a more public line politically and the current monarch – including on environment issues. 

Yesterday the Mail revealed he privately condemned Priti Patel’s Rwanda asylum plan, saying giving Channel migrants a one-way ticket to Africa was ‘appalling’.

But cabinet ministers warned him to stay out of the policy, with one telling the Sunday Times: ‘His mother has set the gold standard, and that’s the standard that he will have to live up to when his time comes. 

‘While this kind of intervention will be tolerated while he is the Prince of Wales, the same will not be true when he becomes king.’ 

Ministers are to bolster their plans to send migrants on a one-way ticket to Rwanda, despite Prince Charles privately describing the idea as ‘appalling’

Home Secretary Priti Patel will this week launch an advertising blitz directed at migrants to warn that if they enter the UK they could be sent straight to the African country

Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Lewis defended the Government’s policy to send migrants to Rwanda and said it would not be ‘appropriate’ to comment on ‘rumoured’ criticism from the Prince of Wales.

Asked if he was personally comfortable with the policy, he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘Yes, I am, actually.’

On reports Charles had privately described the policy as ‘appalling’, Mr Lewis said: ‘They’re not just private comments, they’re rumoured private comments, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment on what somebody says they might have heard without any context of it.

‘The reality is this is a policy that is going to deliver to ensure that modern slavery and these people smugglers know that their criminal methods will be broken down, and saying to people around the world ”if you are a refugee, if you are an asylum seeker, if you are a legal migrant coming to this country, we want to give you the support to properly help you be part of the UK economy, part of the UK way of life, which is what you want”, and that’s right.

‘We’ve got to do that in a proper, legal, managed way and people who are encouraging you to travel illegally are wrong, and we’re going to break their business model.’  

Home Secretary Priti Patel will this week launch an advertising blitz directed at migrants to warn that if they enter the UK they could be sent straight to the African country. 

The campaign comes as she faces the second round of a legal battle to ground the first flight containing 31 asylum seekers, which is due to leave on Tuesday.

The Mail on Sunday understands Ms Patel intends to overhaul laws on modern slavery to stop them being used by Left-wing lawyers to block deportations in future. 

She is also examining whether to cut funding to United Nations bodies which engage in legal action against the British Government.

Ms Patel declined to comment on the report. She is known to be on friendly terms with the Prince and is a frequent visitor to Clarence House.

Charles, who will be representing the Queen, will be joined at the summit by Boris Johnson. Sources have claimed the pair’s personal relationship is occasionally fractious.

On Friday, campaigners failed in a High Court bid to halt the first Rwandan flight, with Mr Justice Swift deciding that there was a ‘material public interest’ in Ms Patel being able to carry out her policies. The Home Secretary praised the judgment, while Mr Johnson described it as ‘welcome news’.

Yesterday Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which brought the case along with several migration charities, refused to rule out his Border Force staff boycotting the Rwanda policy.

Brandon Lewis said that the Government was determined to press ahead with the first of the controversial flights to east Africa, scheduled for Tuesday.

Ms Patel hopes that the advertising campaign will help to stem the flood of migrants across the Channel, with more than 10,000 people having made the journey so far this year

Migrants travelling through Europe will be targeted with Facebook and Instagram adverts in their native languages, warning them that even if they survive the dangerous crossing to the UK they might not even get to remain here.

One, above a picture of an overloaded dinghy in front of the white cliffs of Dover, reads: ‘Arrive illegally in the UK and you could be leaving for Rwanda’. 

Another, showing a migrant behind a metal fence, warns that ‘new measures will make it harder for you to reach and remain in the UK’.

The campaign aims to counter claims by people-trafficking gangs that the arrangement with Rwanda is nothing but a ‘scare tactic’ or ’empty threat’.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was introduced by Theresa May before she became Prime Minister and aimed to tackle what she described as the ‘great human rights issue of our time’. 

It was designed to help the 10,000 people in the UK who were then estimated to be victims of labour exploitation or sex trafficking, or living in domestic servitude.

However, it has increasingly been used by lawyers to lodge injunctions against the deportation of migrants. An independent reviewer will be appointed to examine reforms to the system.

A Whitehall source said: ‘Child rapists, people who pose a threat to national security and illegal migrants who have travelled to the UK from safe countries have sought modern slavery referrals, which have prevented and delayed their removal or deportation.

‘It is imperative that this system is fixed quickly, and for good. Unless we make drastic reforms, the true victims of modern slavery will continue suffer with excessive decision-making periods, and a system that rewards those who seek only to exploit it.’

Britain last year gave nearly £80 million to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, which gave evidence during Friday’s court case arguing that the Rwanda scheme failed to meet the required standards of ‘legality and appropriateness’ for transferring asylum seekers from one country to another. 

The Whitehall source added: ‘Should taxpayers’ money be used to help block Government policy?’

Ms Patel said: ‘Evil criminal gangs are putting profit over people by facilitating dangerous and illegal small boat crossings. We have a duty to warn people of the consequences of these journeys, and expose the lies sold to vulnerable migrants by inhumane people smugglers.

‘People should be in no doubt of our message here: Britain is closed for business to people-traffickers’.

Charles has been branded the ‘meddling prince’ in the past for giving his opinion to Ministers. In 2015, a series of letters he sent to former PM Tony Blair and other Government figures, dubbed the Black Spider Memos because of the Prince’s distinctive handwriting, were published following a decade-long legal battle.

Clarence House insists Prince Charles ‘remains politically neutral’, with sources saying they ‘genuinely did not recognise’ the suggestion he had fallen out with the Prime Minister.

Boris hasn’t given the Prince respect he deserves, say Palace insiders amid Rwanda row – after their relations nosedived when PM turned up at Birkhall estate in a ‘distracted and shambolic’ state

Even for Prime Ministers, a visit to the Queen’s private estate of Balmoral is considered a unique privilege – a glimpse into the inner workings of the Royal Family in a more relaxed setting.

But when Boris Johnson was invited to the Scottish Highlands at the end of the Queen’s summer break in 2019, it was a profoundly awkward experience for all concerned.

The Prince of Wales had extended an invitation for the Prime Minister to visit him at Birkhall, his home on the estate, after Mr Johnson had met the Queen at Balmoral.

But the Prime Minister’s demeanour during the meeting with Prince Charles led to ‘eyebrows being raised’ – courtier code for ‘we are not amused’.

Even for Prime Ministers, a visit to the Queen’s private estate of Balmoral is considered a unique privilege – a glimpse into the inner workings of the Royal Family in a more relaxed setting

A ‘distracted’ Mr Johnson is said to have arrived in a ‘shambolic state’ with his then girlfriend Carrie Symonds, and was ‘clearly not focused’ on the meeting in hand.

While the Prince of Wales remained ‘Sphynx-like’ throughout, the courtiers concluded that the Prime Minister, who had been in Downing Street for only a matter of weeks, had displayed ‘disrespectful’ behaviour.

‘Let’s just say,’ said a well-placed source, ‘that the Prime Minister was not focused on the meeting with the Prince of Wales in a way one might expect.

‘The Prince of Wales is used to meeting all sorts of people but among the aides there was a feeling definitely that during the Birkhall meeting with Boris Johnson, he wasn’t being afforded the respect you might argue that he deserves as a senior public figure who works very hard for the country. The Prince wasn’t kicking up a fuss about it. It was more the staff who felt sorry on his behalf.

‘The next time they met, it was sort of quashed. Things have got better, but they have never been what you might call the best of friends.’

Difficulties between the two men are said to date back to Mr Johnson’s time as Foreign Secretary. He is famously relaxed about punctuality, keeping people waiting for meetings, then being breezily dismissive about the delay. Prince Charles, however, cannot abide lateness, leading to ‘irritations’.

Whitehall sources say the problem has eased the longer Mr Johnson has been in No 10 – if only because Prime Ministers are forced to keep to a strict timetable by rigid diary and strict security considerations.

Mutual friends have also helped to draw the two men closer together.

The source added: ‘They are not cut from the same cloth. They have totally different world views. But over time they have found some common ground, particularly on environmental matters.’

For their part, senior Tory figures enjoy playing the game of ‘guess how Charles would vote if he did’ – with answers tending to range between ‘Liberal Democrat’ and ‘Wet Remainer Tory’.

Last week the pair were seen together at the Guildhall reception following the Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen at St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Charles and the Prime Minister had a brief but cordial conversation. Charles then moved off to meet the Governors-General from the Commonwealth.

The Prince of Wales had extended an invitation for the Prime Minister to visit him at Birkhall, his home on the estate (pictured), after Mr Johnson had met the Queen at Balmoral

Another source said: ‘Boris seems to have finally realised that he may be having weekly audiences in the not-too-distant future with Prince Charles and that he ought to treat him accordingly.’

No one questions the warmth of the relationship between Mr Johnson and the Queen, or with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Later this month, the Prince and the Prime Minister will be reunited again for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda, the African country where the Government intends to resettle asylum seekers.

For those close to Charles, the Home Office policy is an unwelcome distraction during a historic first visit by a member of the Royal Family to the country, which joined the Commonwealth in 2009.

The itinerary, which includes a meeting at a church where 10,000 Tutsis were massacred during the 1994 genocide, will also take in visits to environmental projects.

But the Prime Minister’s demeanour during the meeting with Prince Charles led to ‘eyebrows being raised’ – courtier code for ‘we are not amused’

A source said: ‘The Palace will be trying to make sure that Their Royal Highnesses are not seen to be endorsing the controversial plan in any way and that they don’t come anywhere near any protests.’

Mr Johnson will be hosted by the Prince, who in 2018 was named as the next leader of the Commonwealth group of countries. 

Speaking ahead of next week’s visit, Chris Fitzgerald, deputy private secretary to the Prince of Wales, said: ‘His Royal Highness will host a reception for Heads of Government who have been appointed since the last CHOGM and that evening will host a dinner on behalf of the Queen for all heads of Commonwealth delegations.’

It has not been confirmed whether Charles will also host a private meeting with Mr Johnson during the week-long event. For those in the Palace, none of Charles’s views will come as a surprise.

The first signs of the Prince’s disagreement with Mr Johnson over the Rwanda policy came in the same week that the Government’s plan was announced.

A ‘distracted’ Mr Johnson is said to have arrived in a ‘shambolic state’ with his then girlfriend Carrie Symonds, and was ‘clearly not focused’ on the meeting in hand

In a carefully worded Easter message, the Prince said: ‘Today, millions of people find themselves displaced, wearied by their journey from troubled places, wounded by the past, fearful of the future – and in need of a welcome, of rest, and of kindness.

‘I have found myself heartbroken at the sufferings of the innocent victims of conflict, or persecution, some of whom I have met and who have told me stories of unutterable tragedy as they have been forced to flee their country and seek shelter far from home.’

While many saw it as a message of support to families displaced by war in Ukraine, others read it as a subtle riposte to the Government’s Rwanda scheme – despite the Prince’s close relationship with Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Clarence House has not denied reports that the Prince described the refugee plan as ‘appalling’, but a spokesman said that there had been no lobbying of Ministers on the Prince’s behalf.

Whether the leaking of the Prince’s views will affect the relationship between the Prime Minister and the heir to the Throne remains to be seen.

Source: Read Full Article