Europe’s Courts Stop Populists From Ending Mass Immigration

Immigration reform vote win is a rare populist victory over establishment judges

Written by Anthony Constantini

Correction: The original article mistakenly called Nigel Farage an anti-Brexit crusader; in fact, he is a leading pro-Brexit figure, known for initiating the push for Britain's exit from the EU.

What’s happening: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak won a key vote on a bill allowing the government to send asylum seekers to Rwanda while their claims are processed.

  • For context: The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court declared Rwanda “unsafe” for migrants, a mostly subjective ruling. This legislation would overturn that decision by declaring Rwanda a safe country and help England reduce net migration, which is at a high of 672,000.

Why it matters: The vote is a victory against activist judges, whom European establishments use to blunt populist momentum and policies until the populists can be defeated in elections.

  • Keep in mind: Sunak himself is no populist — having recently fired an official who was tough on immigration — but his party won the last elections through former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s blue-collar populism. The asylum move is a way to keep those voters away from popular Reform UK Party founder and pro-Brexit crusader Nigel Farage.

Populists versus judges: Populists in Europe have rarely been successful in counteracting activist judiciaries.

  • In Slovenia: When former Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša tried to reform the judiciary, the outcry from Brussels was fierce, and Janša lost re-election.

  • In Poland: The European Union (E.U.) blocked funding for the Law and Justice Party’s government when it tried to reform a legal system captured by corrupt post-communist officials.

  • In Italy: Judges have released migrants who had received deportation orders, and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni earned backlash from judicial organizations for criticizing the move.

What’s next: The bill must pass through several other chambers of Parliament to become law, including the more moderate House of Lords.

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