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Analysis

France tightens the screw on Brexit Britain

by Paul Taylor | 17.01.2018

Paris: Britain will have to pay France more and admit more unaccompanied migrant children to preserve the Le Touquet treaty, the agreement that keeps migrants at bay by fortifying and guarding the Channel border on the French side. This adds to anxieties about how Brexit could disrupt vital cross-Channel trade and travel.

Keen to secure French support for a generous trade deal with the EU after Britain leaves the bloc, Theresa May is expected to agree to Emmanuel Macron’s demands at a summit at the Sandhurst military academy on Thursday. They will also announce new steps in defence cooperation between Europe’s two main military powers.

As the price for preserving the unpopular treaty, French officials say Macron is insisting on: more money to meet security costs; a joint task force to handle asylum requests by migrants in Calais; speeding up the admission of adults with legitimate reasons to go to the UK; and accepting more young asylum seekers.

Since the referendum to leave the EU, political pressure has mounted in France, particularly in the northern border region, to stop acting as Britain’s border policeman.

The French were angered when Britain reneged on what they considered a promise to take in hundreds of unaccompanied minors after French police dismantled a makeshift camp known as “The Jungle” in 2016, where some 6,000 migrants from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia and Eritrea had lived in frail shelters outside Calais. The Home Office dragged its feet, arguing that many of youngsters had lied about their age.

Under crossfire from local residents angry at the migrant influx and humanitarian groups dismayed by his tougher migration policies and reported police French brutality towards migrants, Macron visited Calais on Tuesday to pledge that he would not allow another migrant camp to mushroom, and would defend the region’s economic interests in the Brexit negotiations.

“Calais will not become a back-door to the UK,” the president said. “There will be no return of the jungle.”

British officials say the UK has paid over £120 million in the last three years towards the costs of fortifying the Channel Tunnel approaches and boosting border security, but they accept it will have to pay more and put more officials in France to process asylum requests.

The summit illustrates the government’s schizophrenia about relations with Europe. Having long obstructed increased EU defence cooperation, London now wants the closest possible access after Brexit to decision-making on EU military operations and access for British defence companies to a new EU fund for military research and development, and joint arms procurement.  

As a down-payment, France is expecting Britain to offer military helicopters for its Operation Barkhane combating Islamist militants in the Sahel region. It also wants British financial and training support for the joint force of the G5 group of Sahel countries. If Britain wants to keep its cross-Channel partnership strong after Brexit, it’ll come at a price.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

One Response to “France tightens the screw on Brexit Britain”

  • Keep tuning that screw Emmanuel!
    The British Tory Government needs to stop behaving like a pompous Imperial power, its not enough just to shout “we’re British” loudly in a cut glass accent and expect the rest of the EU to tremble….
    No cake & eat it!