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Monday, October 25, 2021

Migrant crossings: UK working ‘very effectively’ with France as over 1,100 cross channel in two days

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has insisted the UK was working “very effectively” with France to tackle migrant crossings of the Channel, amid a spat with Paris over funding.

The Tory frontbencher sought to play down splits after French interior minister Gerald Darmanin claimed “not one euro has been paid” by Britain of the £54m promised to help deal with the problem.

Home Secretary Priti Patel recently threatened to withhold the funding unless more people were stopped from reaching the UK.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin is to visit Calais today to address the migrant crisis
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French minister Gerald Darmanin claims ‘not one euro has been paid’ by Britain

The row came as Sky News filmed dozens of migrants leaving beaches on inflatable boats, and even a canoe, to begin the hazardous voyage unchallenged by French police officers.

Among those rescued by the RNLI after surviving a nine-hour journey was a newborn baby.

It comes as official figures revealed more than 1,100 people crossed the English Channel to the UK aboard small boats over Friday and Saturday.

Numbers released by the Home Office show at least 624 people reached the UK on Friday aboard 23 boats, with 491 people crossing on Saturday aboard 17 boats.

Up until the end of September, 17,085 people had made the journey compared to 8,417 for the whole of last year.

Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme, Mr Kwarteng said: “All I can say is that we’ve worked very effectively with the French government so far.”

He pointed out joint cooperation had led to nearly 300 arrests, 65 convictions and prevented more than 13,500 crossings.

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Newborn among migrants rescued in Kent

The cabinet minister added: “It is a good collaborative relationship and we obviously want to improve that.

“Things are actually happening on the ground and I am sure the home secretary is working very hard to make sure that we actually deliver on this very critical problem.”

It follows comments made by Mr Darmanin during a weekend visit to Calais to inspect efforts to tackle migrant crossings, when asked by Sky’s Europe correspondent Adam Parsons why so many boats were arriving in Britain despite the deal.

Mr Darmanin said: “First off, the British government has not paid, for now, what was promised.

“So, for the moment, there is not a euro that has been paid by the British government following the deal – more or less – that we negotiated with Ms Patel.

“The English are people of honour, so I am certain that it is an accounting delay.”

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Migrant: French police watched and let us leave

He also insisted the French authorities had taken action to stop the illegal arrivals, including dismantling transit camps and increasing the number of police.

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has argued the large number of crossings this weekend alone showed withholding money from France “clearly isn’t working”.

He told Sky News: “The home secretary needs to come clean because every single person risking their lives in that dangerous sea crossing of the English Channel is one too many.”

He added: “Whilst of course the patrols at the coast preventing people getting out onto the water and risking their lives is hugely important – of course it is – what I fear the home secretary misses is the fact that nobody becomes a refugee in northern France.

“We need to be tackling the people smugglers and these vile criminal gangs further away from the coast as well.”

Along with the migrant crossings, UK-France relations have been further strained by the AUKUS submarine dispute and a row over post-Brexit fishing rights.

French fisheries workers claim they have been “deceived” by the British government over fishing licence applications and have called on the European Commission to take “retaliatory measures”.

And France has again threatened to cut the UK off from energy supplies if the terms of the Brexit deal aren’t stuck to.

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