The petulant outburst from President Macron in response to Boris Johnson’s letter asking the French to do more to deter migrants from making the perilous Channel crossing was revealing. After all, the PM had made five simple, yet important, requests.
The most vital were that Border Force officials help patrol French beaches and nearby roads; that the UK sends back to France migrants who cross the Channel; and for Border Force cutters to be allowed to help patrol French coastal waters.
The PM also offered to ‘deepen’ intelligence-sharing on the operations of smuggling gangs, and said the UK could fund the deployment of ground sensors and radars in northern France to detect suspicious activity.
Yet instead of dealing with Boris’s concerns, Emmanuel Macron, like an angry five-year-old who has been caught out, threw a tantrum over the fact the PM had the temerity to make the letter public – obviously because it exposed the French authorities to ridicule for having taken so little action already. Instead of a rant, he should have showed humility. After all, 27 migrants had just died.
The petulant outburst from President Macron in response to Boris Johnson’s letter asking the French to do more to deter migrants from making the perilous Channel crossing was revealing. After all, the PM had made five simple, yet important, requests
On top of that, pictures showed French police, just hours before the tragedy, turning their backs as migrants launched a dinghy on a beach north of Boulogne.
Here in the UK, there is justifiable frustration. After paying the French £54 million to stop the illegal and dangerous crossings, more migrants than ever are putting themselves in the hands of the people smugglers and crossing the Channel in overcrowded and flimsy boats.
To all intents and purposes, the money seems to have been wasted.
Sadly, the Macron over-the-top rant is becoming standard practice. Facing a re-election next year with worrying poll ratings, he clearly believes bashing Britain makes him seem strong.
Hence the wrong-headed dismissal of the AstraZeneca vaccine created in Britain, the public fight with the British over the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal with Australia, the spat over fishing permits and the threat to cut off electricity to the UK’s Channel Islands.
The five requests from the Prime Minister are reasonable, would help and deserve better than a French hissy fit.
However, even those requests will not be enough alone. That’s because there is a pull factor for those desperate enough to make the crossing.
It is that they are all told by the people smugglers that once across in the UK, they will be able to stay.
The PM wrote an excellent book on Churchill. Perhaps he can borrow something from his hero and send to every department a sign to be pinned up on their desks which says simply: Action This Day
The legal complexities of the immigration and asylum process – which seem to offer loophole after loophole to those who in reality are economic migrants, not asylum seekers – create vast delays.
This in turn means genuine asylum seekers and those fleeing modern-day slavery can struggle to establish their credentials.
The Government’s flagship Nationality and Borders Bill should help once it becomes law. This will mean those who arrive by crossing the Channel will have fewer rights than those who come by legal, safe routes.
It will also mean a curtailing of the right of asylum seekers to launch endless appeals. People will have to present all their claims at the same time, without the further right to appeal. This will certainly tighten the process up, yet once through the House of Commons, the Bill is certain to hit serious opposition in the Lords and will take some time to get through.
The Government’s flagship Nationality and Borders Bill should help once it becomes law. This will mean those who arrive by crossing the Channel will have fewer rights than those who come by legal, safe routes, writes Ian Duncan Smith
Priti Patel is right that this cannot be sorted out overnight but it still must be resolved as an urgent priority and she deserves support in doing it.
Yet that Bill alone also cannot solve the whole problem.
The Government must also make it a priority to keep its manifesto promise to reform the Human Rights Act. After all, it has been clear for a long time that the right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights is too often deployed by criminals to avoid deportation from Britain. Many have committed terrible crimes including rape and murder.
Sadly, the Act is also deployed by failed asylum seekers as a means of creating a right to stay in the UK.
On top of all that legislation, the Government has spoken about processing asylum claims offshore as the Australians do.
The Government maintains that would help tackle the pull factor – having to get to Britain before they can claim asylum – that forces often genuinely desperate migrants to risk the perilous journey in boats not fit for purpose. If so, the Government must get on with these plans.
After all, at the last Election, we made it clear that getting Brexit done would allow us to take control of our laws, our borders and our money – a Conservative pledge that must be delivered on.
The PM wrote an excellent book on Churchill. Perhaps he can borrow something from his hero and send to every department a sign to be pinned up on their desks which says simply: Action This Day.