Britain will payout £480m over the next three years in a deal struck between Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron to tackle small boat Channel crossings, with measures including funding for a new detention centre in France.
The fresh package agreed between the prime minister and the French president to deal with the migrant crisis will also see hundreds more French personnel patrolling the beaches.
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Other measures include:
- Additional drones, aircraft and surveillance technologies
- A new 24/7 coordination centre with permanent UK liaison officers
- Increased cooperation between the National Crime Agency and its French counterpart
The “unprecedented” deal was hailed by Mr Sunak after holding talks in Paris with Mr Macron aimed at bolstering efforts to combat the problem.
However, the French leader told the PM the migration returns agreement he seeks would have to be negotiated with the European Union rather than Paris.
More than 3,000 people have already made the perilous sea journey this year, with almost 46,000 arriving by unofficial routes in 2022.
The latest funding comes on top of a £63m package to increase patrol officers by 40% four months ago and follows a £55m deal in 2021.
It was the first Anglo-French summit to be held for five years, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and tensions with Mr Sunak’s predecessors over Brexit.
In stark contrast, the president has formed a close bond with Mr Sunak in what has been dubbed “Le Bromance”.
The pair spoke for an hour in private, having dispensed with their advisers, after which Mr Sunak described his opposite number as a “friend of Britain”, while Mr Macron hailed a “new beginning” in relations.
During a joint news conference at the Elysee, they also announced a new deal on civil nuclear co-operation and a commitment to ease the post-Brexit barriers to school trips between Britain and France.
Earlier in the week, the Tory government unveiled controversial plans to curb Channel crossings which would see refugees arriving by boats detained, removed and banned for life from claiming asylum in the UK.
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Mr Sunak said: “Last year I agreed the largest ever small boats deal with France to increase UK-funded patrols by 40%.
“This week I announced measures to ensure nobody who enters the UK illegally can remain here.
“We don’t need to manage this problem, we need to break it.
“And today, we have gone further than ever before to put an end to this disgusting trade in human life.
“Working together, the UK and France will ensure that nobody can exploit our systems with impunity.”
Beyond the chemistry some concrete measures on illegal immigration
In an unexpected development Rishi Sunak is fast becoming the darling of Europe and maybe even a master negotiator.
His meeting with President Emmanuel Macron today at the first summit of its kind for five years was described by the pair as a “new beginning” and it certainly looked like a lot has changed in a very short time.
After years of frosty Anglo-French relations driven by Brexit tensions and exacerbated by Boris Johnson’s confrontational approach to negotiations, it felt like a rapid thawing was happening before our eyes.
A morning spent embracing was followed by a news conference brimming with bonhomie, as the pair lavished praise on each other.
Mr Sunak said he was “lucky” to have the French president as his counterpart and talked of the “entente renewed”, while Mr Macron described their “real connection” and “common purpose”.
They even laughed at each other’s slightly laboured sports jokes.
Beyond the obvious chemistry some concrete measures on illegal immigration were announced, including more policing of French beaches and a new detention centre in France.
There was also a commitment to more investment and ongoing cooperation on what was described as a “shared” challenge.
These agreements – reached in record time – feel unlikely to have been offered to his predecessors.
It comes on the back of his Northern Ireland protocol success in securing concessions with EU leaders that seemed impossible just a few months ago and achieved, it appears, through a mixture of hard work and maybe even… charm?
We always knew that the PM had a reputation for rolling up his sleeves and digging into the detail, but he is quickly starting to look like a formidable statesman as well.
Mr Macron said they had agreed on a “new ambitious bilateral framework” to tackle the problem.
He added: “What we have decided is heightened co-ordination on our activities.
“We must act together in a fully shared framework to do this with all the Europeans who are concerned by the transit and crossing and some countries from which the traffic is organised.”
There have been claims that Mr Sunak’s new asylum legislation may breach human rights law causing a fresh rift with the EU.
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But Mr Sunak insisted “we will always comply with our international treaty obligations”, adding: “I am convinced that within them that we can do what is necessary to solve this shared problem and stop the boats.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International UK called for the two countries to commit to “providing asylum” for people instead of “heartless anti-refugee measures”.
Christina Marriott, of the British Red Cross, said the focus on detention in the latest agreement was “disappointing”.