- Written by Chris Mason
- A political editor travels with the Prime Minister
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is heading to Paris to push France to “move forward” in joint efforts to stop migrants from crossing the English Channel.
Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron will meet at the Elysee Palace along with senior ministers for the first Anglo-French summit in five years.
The UK wants to look into strengthening police patrols on French beaches, where many small boat crossings leave.
No deal is expected to be reached on returning migrants who reach the UK to France.
Under the plans, anyone found to have entered the country illegally would not only be removed from the UK within 28 days, but would also be barred from returning or claiming British citizenship in the future.
Those who reach UK shores are either repatriated, or another “safe third country” such as Rwanda.
It is believed that the leaders of the United Kingdom and France will meet for about half an hour.
The British government believed that the money sent to France to step up patrols was value for money and wanted to go further.
“We want to do more and we also believe that France wants to stop these illegal gangs from exploiting people,” said the prime minister’s official spokesman.
“Certainly we are going there with the ambition to move forward in preventing boats from making these dangerous crossings,” the spokesman added.
But both London and Paris acknowledge there will be no agreement as France takes back migrants who have reached the UK.
The French government is believed to favor a UK-EU deal, which is frustrating for British diplomats who would like to see faster action.
“We want a return agreement between the EU and the UK and we will push that forward,” the spokesperson said.
“But it is equally important that there is action on the ground right now to stop the crossings that we are seeing even in these winter months.”
A French government source said: “At this stage, due to Brexit, there is no readmission agreement between France and the UK.”
The Labor Party said the lack of a new agreement to return migrants to France “has failed miserably”.
The British government feels that the relationship with their counterparts in Paris on this issue has improved significantly in the past two years.
But Downing Street’s desire to “make the small boat route across the Channel unworkable” is a bold ambition, given the numbers to the contrary that have continued to rise.
So far this year, some 3,000 people have arrived on small boats, but the two governments claim their joint action has prevented a similar number from embarking.
Announcement is expected to deepen cooperation on this issue, not a major breakthrough.
Mr Sunak said: “From tackling the scourge of illegal immigration to driving investment in each other’s economies, the work we do together improves the lives of everyone in our countries.
Moreover, the United Kingdom and France also have a distinct role as advocates of European and global security.
Officials note that both the United Kingdom and France are nuclear powers, members of the Group of Seven, the Group of Twenty, the defense alliance NATO and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
Brexit has been a cornerstone of the relationship between the United Kingdom and France in recent years.
London and Paris are keen to stress their closeness on many other issues, not least of which is Ukraine.
The prime minister and the president will host a press conference on Friday afternoon and issue a joint statement.
It’s a month of particularly intense activity between the two countries – 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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