Paris stresses importance for an EU-UK treaty on migrants

France called for the start of talks for a migration treaty between the European Union and Britain

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. [Photo: AFP]

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Saturday called for the start of negotiations for a migration treaty between the European Union and Britain.

Darmanin also urged the British government to “uphold its promise” to finance the fight against the illegal immigrants who gather on the northern French coast seeking to cross into England.

“We need to negotiate a treaty, since Mr (Michel) Barnier did not do so when he negotiated Brexit, which binds us on migration issues,” the interior minister said, adding that France will champion the project when it takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in January.

Barnier, who is now running for president in France, was the EU’s Brexit negotiator during the fraught talks on a deal to cover relations with the UK after it left the European Union.

Darmanin was speaking during a visit to Loon-Plage, a town on the northern French coast.

The issue of the trafficking of migrants across the Channel to southern England is a constant source of friction between Paris and London, not least on the question of the costs incurred in policing them.

A total of 15,400 people attempted to cross the Channel in the first eight months of this year, an increase of 50 percent over the figure for the whole of 2020, according to French coast guard statistics.

“The (British) government has not yet paid what it promised us,” Darmanin said. “We call on the British to keep their promise of financing since we are maintaining the border for them”.

Under an agreement reached in July, Britain agreed to finance border security in France to the tune of 62.7 million euros ($73.8 million),

According to British media reports, British Home Secretary Priti Patel in September threatened to withhold the money in the light of the record numbers of migrants arriving from France.

“France has held the border for our British friends for over 20 years,” said Darmanin.

The French side has hired more gendarmes, purchased more technological equipment and thereby “succeeded in greatly reducing migratory pressure”, he added.

France is “an ally of Britain” but “not its vassal”, he said.

Over the past three months France has stopped 65 percent of attempted crossings by illegal immigrants, up from 50 percent, the interior minister said.

Darmanin added that he had received assurances from the director of the European border surveillance agency Frontex, that it will be prepared by the end of the year to monitor the coastal area, notably through aerial surveillance.

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