Home secretary urged to ‘stand up’ to France after report of falling Channel interceptions

Politics

Suella Braverman has been urged to “stand up” to France as reports emerged the country is intercepting fewer migrants in the Channel despite a £480m funding deal.

The call from Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis came as The Telegraph claimed just 45.2% of migrants have been stopped by French patrols since January, down from 45.8% in the same period last year.

This is despite Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreeing a £480m Anglo-French deal in March as part of his pledge to “stop the boats”, far beyond the £54m the UK paid France for assistance in the Channel in 2021.

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Gullis said the government must “make clear that we will demand a certain level of payment back” if the situation in the Channel does not improve.

He also urged the Home Office to consider “taking people back to France ourselves if we are picking people up in French territorial waters”.

Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis addresses the Commons
Image:
Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis addresses the Commons

“If the French don’t like it, then that’s tough on them,” the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North said.

Mr Gullis added that Home Secretary Suella Braverman and immigration minister Robert Jenrick should stand “side-by-side, united in message and in voice” and “stand up” for the British public.

More on Migrant Crisis

They should “say to their French counterparts: ‘This is not good enough,'” he said.

“They may ruffle some feathers but… we can’t allow to be taken for a ride.”

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The new data, from the Hauts-de-France prefecture via The Telegraph, details how the number of migrants crossing the Channel has fallen by 18% in the last year.

However, the number of migrants stopped on French beaches also fell – from 17,032 last year to 13,759 so far this year – which means the interception rate has dropped slightly.

Natalie Elphickie, the Tory MP for Dover, told Sky News that this is a “dismal record” considering the sum the UK pays France.

She said: “Everyone understands that France has been suffering from internal disorder. That’s why the French authorities should agree to joint patrols – so when they are overstretched and cannot cope, we can make sure that the border is manned.

Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, listens to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking at Western Jet Foil in Dover
Image:
Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, listens to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking at Western Jet Foil in Dover

“It’s important to remember that stopping the boats – and the brazen criminality that goes with it – is in the interests of both the UK and France. That’s why we all need to work together to bring this crisis to an end.”

Former minister Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs Committee, agreed the figures are “very disappointing”.

He said: “We need an immediate value for money assessment of exactly what the British taxpayer is getting for their money.”

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Campaigners: ‘More people will die’

A spokesperson for the Home Office said in a statement: “The unacceptable number of people risking their lives by making these dangerous crossings is placing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system.

“Our priority is to stop the boats, and our Small Boats Operational Command is working alongside our French partners and other agencies to disrupt the people smugglers.

“The government is going even further through our Illegal Migration Act which will mean that people arriving in the UK illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.”

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