The former foreign secretary has one day to read up on his brief before he has to deal with the most pressing issue in his intray – the government’s flagship policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
On Wednesday, judges in the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court, will issue their judgement on whether the controversial and much-delayed plan is lawful.
The Court of Appeal has previously ruled it unlawful, saying the east African country is not safe for asylum seekers and their claims would not be processed properly. The government is reportedly bracing for the upper court to agree.
By bringing in Mr Cleverly as home secretary, Mr Sunak has avoided an embarassing clash with Suella Braverman on what to do if flights to Rwanda are again grounded. Ms Braverman had favoured leaving the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as a way to get around the issue – a move popular with the hard right of the Conservative Party.
But Mr Sunak reportedly disagreed with this and Ms Braverman was said to be considering resigning on principle if Supreme Court judges rule against the government.
Mr Cleverly has previously said he is “not convinced” that leaving the ECHR is necessary to ensure the UK’s tough approach to immigration. He told The Guardian in April that the UK should not wish to join Belarus and Russia, the only European countries outside the ECHR.
He defended the UK’s ability to influence and make changes within the ECHR, saying: “We are a serious player on the world stage.”
Following his new appointment, Mr Cleverly told journalists he was “absolutely committed to stopping the boats as we promised”. He also emphasised the role he now has in “making sure that everyone in the UK feels safe and secure going about their daily business”, following clashes between far-right protesters and the police over the weekend and anti-semitic chants and abuse from some of the pro-Palestine demonstrators.
In the home office, Mr Cleverly will also be tasked with reviewing police powers to tackle disruptive protests following reports number 10 is keen to make it easier for force chiefs to ban marches and prosecute those glorifying terrorism.
As foreign secretary, Mr Cleverly had previously worked with international partners on the issue of small boats. He told Conservative party conference in October that he had “collaborated closely” with other governments to crack down on “inhuman people-smuggling gangs”.
He recently went to Albania to build on progress the UK has been making to stop Albanians crossing the Channel by small boat, and increase the number of people returned to the country.
More than 26,000 migrants have crossed the Channel so far this year, lower than at this point last year. Plans are also being considered within government to expand the list of “safe” countries that asylum seekers can be deported back to, according to reports.
Turkey, Egypt and Iraq are being “actively considered” for inclusion, following former home secretary Ms Braverman’s announcement that India and Georgia would be added.
Although Mr Cleverly said on Monday that it would be a “huge privilege” to take on the role, he had previously made a rare public plea to be kept in his position of foreign secretary, which has now been given to David Cameron. He told the Aspen Security Forum in July that he would have to be dragged out of his job “with nail marks down the parquet flooring”.
He added: “I very much want to stay put as foreign secretary. It’s a job that I love, I think it’s an important job.”
Another issue Mr Cleverly will have to deal with is the use of a former RAF base in his Braintree constituency to house asylum seekers.
He has previously fought against the plans and he took to Facebook in March to reassure constituents that he had told the immigration minister that it was not appropriate accommodation.
“I highlighted the remote nature of the site, the limited transport infrastructure and narrow road network and that these factors would mean the site wasn’t appropriate for asylum accommodation,” he wrote.
After the home office confirmed that the site would be used anyway, he reiterated his opposition to the plan, saying: “I have made my views on the site clear from the beginning.”
The use of the site, which is now housing asylum seekers, is facing legal action from refugee charity Care4Calais, which argues that it is being run as a de-facto detention centre.
Mr Cleverly has shown loyalty to Mr Sunak since the prime minister decided to keep him on as foreign secretary when entering Downing Street just over a year ago. Mr Cleverly was an old ally of Boris Johnson and a backer of Liz Truss.