Tuesday, 7 December 2021

France expects UK to pay up, take more refugees to keep border

Emmanuel Macron

PARIS: France expects Britain to agree to take more asylum seekers and pay more for border security in order to maintain a frontier on the French side of the Channel, a French government official said.

Britain’s border was extended into France under a 2003 bilateral treaty known as the Le Touquet accord. But a migration crisis and the Brexit vote to leave the European Union have made the arrangement an increasing source of friction.

The deal will be on the table on Thursday when President Emmanuel Macron holds talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May at a Anglo-French summit in southern England.

Asked if concrete announcements are expected at the talks, the source said: “Yes. But is it all finalised? Absolutely not.”

France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, who has taken the lead on talks, was quoted by the Le Parisen newspaper on Sunday saying he hoped an “additional protocol” to supplement the Le Touquet accord could be agreed upon.

His comments indicated Macron has dropped a campaign promise to renegotiate the Le Touquet accord in full.

“We’re still negotiating. There is back and forth. Nothing is locked in yet. The British have shaken on nothing but there’s a lot of pressure on them,” said the official familiar with Collomb’s thinking.

If no deal can be struck, France could tear up the Le Touquet accord and the two countries would have to reinstate borders on each side of the English Channel, the source said, adding that this was not in the interest of either side.

“Our understanding is that they will pay more. The question is how much and for what,” said the source, adding that the two sides are in daily contact ahead of the summit.

“We have let them know of our needs and a figure, we’re talking tens of millions of euros.”

Some pro-Brexit lawmakers from Britain’s ruling Conservative party have branded suggestions London pay more as “absurd”.

A spokesman for the British Home Office (interior ministry) said: “We work closely with the French authorities at all levels to reduce migrant pressures and target criminal gangs involved in people trafficking, both in northern France and further afield.”

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