Suella Braverman attacks ‘activist’ civil servants as staff warn small boats bill will not work

Suella Braverman has been condemned for claiming civil servants are part of an “activist blob”, while Home Office staff warn that her plans on small boats will not work.

The FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, said claims made in an email to Conservatives following the announcement of the Illegal Migration Bill were “extraordinary” and must be urgently withdrawn.

It came as a Home Office official told The Independent the plans are “empty threats” that cannot be implemented, and accused the government of causing the Channel crisis with its own “widespread incompetence”.

The Independent has seen internal communications from Home Office leaders telling civil servants they should work to make the bill “a success”, warning: “Any new policy is only ever as good as its implementation.”

But staff have been piling into internal chats with questions on how the proposals can be implemented and whether they break the law.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, FDA general secretary Dave Penman called for a formal apology over Ms Braverman’s claims that “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party blocked us” from previous attempts to stop small boat crossings.

“Civil servants are tasked with carrying out the settled will of government,” he added.

“Not only is this statement factually incorrect, but the tone of that paragraph and the brigading of civil servants with the Labour Party and ‘left-wing lawyers’ is a direct attack on the integrity and impartiality of the thousands of civil servants who loyally serve the home secretary, doing some of the most complex and difficult work in government.”

Mr Penman condemned the “cowardly attack” on staff who are unable to publicly defend themselves, warning that it risks further stoking tensions following violent protests at hotels used for asylum seekers.

“The Ministerial Code states that ‘ministers must uphold the political impartiality of the civil service’,” he said.

“I cannot see how the home secretary’s statement to Conservative Party members can be reconciled with her obligations under the code.”

It came amid widespread unrest in the Home Office over Ms Braverman’s admission that the Illegal Immigration BIll may violate human rights, and the UN Refugee Agency’s warning that the plans are a “clear breach” of international law.

Practical questions are mounting over how all small boat migrants could be detained and deported, when there is insufficient immigration detention capacity and only two removal agreements in place with Rwanda and Albania.

A Home Office official said the asylum system had not been overwhelmed by small boat crossings, as claimed by Ms Braverman, but “because of how it is run” and “widespread incompetence”.

Speaking to The Independent on condition of anonymity, they said that asylum seekers cannot be forced back to the country they fled under international law.

“Once you’ve saturated Rwanda, where do you send them?” they asked. “It all works for Albanians but what about the rest? It’s empty threats.”

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