PM to push Macron on efforts to stop ferry crossings – BBC News

  • by Chris Mason
  • Political Editor, traveling with the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is going to Paris to press for France to “move forward” on joint efforts to stop migrants crossing the English Channel.

Mr Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron will meet at the Elysee Palace with senior ministers at the first Anglo-French summit in five years.

The UK wants to boost police patrols on French beaches, where many small boats leave.

No agreement is expected on the return of migrants from Britain to France.

Under the plans, anyone who enters the country illegally would not only be deported from the UK within 28 days, but would also be barred from returning or claiming British citizenship in the future.

Those arriving on UK beaches would either be returned to their home country, or another “safe third country” like Rwanda.

It is believed that the leaders of Britain and France will meet for about half an hour.

The British government believes that the money sent to increase patrols to France is worth the money and wants to go further.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We want to do more and we also recognize that France wants to stop these illegal gangs exploiting people.”

“Of course we are going there with the ambition of stopping boats making these dangerous crossings,” the spokesman said.

But both London and Paris acknowledge there will be no deal where France takes back migrants who have reached Britain.

The French government is believed to prefer a deal between Britain and the EU, much to the dismay of British diplomats who want to see quick action.

“We want an EU-UK return agreement and will pursue it,” the spokesman said.

“But it is equally important that there is work on the ground now to prevent the crossings we are seeing even in these winter months.”

A French government source said, “At this stage, and because of Brexit, there is no reading access agreement between France and the United Kingdom.”

Labor said the absence of a new agreement to return migrants to France was a “total failure”.

The British government appears to have significantly improved relations with their opposite numbers in Paris on this issue over the years.

But given that Downing Street’s desire “to make the small boat route across the Channel unviable” is a bold ambition, the numbers continue to rocket.

So far this year, around 3,000 people have arrived on the small boats, but both governments claim their joint work has prevented a similar number from making the journey.

The announcement to deepen cooperation on this issue is expected rather than a major breakthrough.

Mr Sunak said: “The work we do, from tackling the crisis of illegal immigration to investing in each other’s economies, improves life for everyone in our countries.

“Furthermore, the UK and France also have a privileged role as defenders of European and global security.”

Officials point out that the UK and France are both nuclear powers, members of the G7, G20 and NATO defense alliances and permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Brexit has been a cobblestone in the shoe of relations between the UK and France in recent years.

And both London and Paris are keen to emphasize their closeness on many other issues, not least Ukraine.

The Prime Minister and the President will host a news conference on Friday afternoon and issue a joint statement.

This is a month of particularly intense activity between the two countries – as King Charles and the Queen Consort will be in France in a few weeks.

Next year marks the 120th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale, which ended centuries of rivalry between the two countries.

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