The attorney general has been publicly contradicted by her own department over whether the government’s Rwanda deportations policy is illegal.
Suella Braverman last week claimed the UK needed to leave the European Convention of Human Rights to go ahead with the removals – arguing that they would be found unlawful under the treaty.
But Ms Braverman’s department has now again claimed that the policy is legal after all, as it prepares to defend it in court.
Labour said that Ms Braverman had “debased her office in the pursuit of her political ambitions”, resulting in an “absolute shambles”.
The attorney general made the comments just hours before being knocked out of the Tory leadership contest, coming bottom in a ballot of MPs despite her attempt to drum up support by attacking human rights.
She had called on the UK to ditch Article 3 rights, under which people are protected from torture and inhuman treatment.
Her comments were branded “an outrageous assault on this most basic of rules against human cruelty” by campaigners.
Ms Braverman’s intervention during her leadership campaign raised eyebrows because as attorney general she is responsible for laying out the government’s legal position – and was claiming that its policy was against the law.
Asked by Labour to put the department’s position in writing before parliament, Ms Braverman’s deputy said the policy was “fully compatible with all of our domestic and international legal obligations including ECHR rights”.
“It is the government’s position that the Migration and Economic Development Partnership is fully compatible with all of our domestic and international legal obligations including ECHR rights,” said Edward Timpson, the solicitor general, in his written answer.
The government will defend the plan at a High Court hearing on 5 September – the same day the new Tory leader will be announced.
Documents lodged with the court this week show the Home Office pushed the policy through despite repeated concerns from a slew of top UK government officials.
The policy, the brainchild of Priti Patel, will see asylum seekers who arrive on British shores in small boats removed to Rwanda to claim asylum there, with no recourse to return.
Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow attorney general told The Independent: “A matter of days ago, we saw the Attorney General saying it was necessary to quit the European Convention on Human Rights in order to implement the government’s Rwanda policy.
“Now we have her office saying the exact opposite in the context of the ongoing litigation.
“This is not just more evidence of how Suella Braverman has debased her office in the pursuit of her political ambitions, but how a government obsessed with its own power struggles has become totally detached from the task of running the country. They are an absolute shambles.”
The first flight under the policy was due to take off on 14 June but was cancelled after a last-minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights.
Polling by YouGov conducted in April found that 42 per cent of the public are against the plan while 35 per cent support it. It has also been condemned by the UN high commissioner for refugees, who said it would amount to the UK breaching its international obligations.