DOWNING Street has insisted there are “no plans” for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) after reports to the contrary sparked a civil war among Tory MPs.

It comes with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set to publish legislation designed to stop asylum seekers trying to cross the Channel in small boats.

A score of Conservative MPs hit out after The Sunday Times quoted an anonymous source who said Sunak would be “willing to reconsider whether being part of the ECHR is in the UK’s long-term interest” should his plans be deemed unlawful by European courts.

The source claimed that Sunak, alongside his Home Secretary Suella Braverman, would be “pushing the boundaries of what is legally possible, while staying within the ECHR”.

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The reports led Bob Neill, the chair of Westminster Justice Select Committee, to tell the Financial Times: “If Conservatives don’t believe in the rule of law, what do we believe in? Are we going to put ourselves in the same company as Russia and Belarus?

“It’s not a virtue to push the law to the limits. Adherence to and membership of the ECHR is a red line for many Conservatives. It would be unbelievable for a Conservative government to leave it.”

Robert Buckland, a Tory former justice secretary, also told that paper: “It would be an undesirable state of affairs if the UK was to follow Russia out of the Council of Europe … I don’t think there would be a majority for it.”

Elsewhere, Jackie Doyle-Price, a Tory MP and briefly a minister in Liz Truss’s government, said that “willy waving about leaving the ECHR will do zilch”.

“Upholding the law should never be a matter for debate for a Conservative. Our Home Office is crap. If the government wants to have a phone[y] war over the ECHR instead of sorting itself out it can do it without me,” she said in the “Home Group” of Tory MPs on Whatsapp.

Anna Firth, a former barrister elected to Southend West after the murder of David Amess, said Doyle-Price had been “bang on the money”.

Politico reported that other messages exchanged in the Conservative group were equally damning.

Tory MP David Simmonds said: “The ECHR is not the issue here. By pretending it is, we are setting ourselves up for a fall as a UK court will take the same line.”

Alicia Kearns, the chair of Westminster’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said Simmonds was “exactly” right.

The National: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaving Teesside University in Darlington, as part of his visit to County Durham. Picture date: Monday January 30, 2023. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Oli Scarff/PA Wire

After the Conservative backlash, Downing Street insisted it had no plans to withdraw from the ECHR.

In a briefing on Monday, No 10 said the UK Government is “confident” proposals being drawn up will be “compliant with our international obligations”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson told reporters: “We will of course comply with all our international obligations, and we are confident the measures being worked through will tackle the problem while being compliant with the ECHR.”

Asked if there are any circumstances in which the UK would consider leaving the ECHR, he replied: “There are no plans for Government to take that approach.”

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Tackling the flow of small boats across the Channel has been set as one of Sunak’s top five priorities in the run up to the next General Election.

According to Downing Street, the proposals for cracking down on the crossings are due to be published “fairly soon”.

So far this year, some 1442 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK, according to Home Office figures.

Those numbers include 262 people who made the journey this weekend.

Last year, a record 45,755 succeeded in making the trip, UK Government figures show.