France and UK discuss illegal Channel crossings and Brexit
Paris, 29 August 2019
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner hosted a meeting in Beauvau today with his new British counterpart, Ms Priti Patel.
The two ministers discussed the issue of illegal Channel crossings. The phenomenon, which increased in scale in October 2018, saw a decline at the beginning of the year following the implementation on 4 January 2019 of a national action plan requested by Christophe Castaner, and then of a Franco-British action plan agreed on 24 January in London by the Minister and his then counterpart, Sajid Javid. These plans led to a heavier presence by security forces on the coast between Boulogne and Dunkirk, more air and sea patrols in coordination with the préfecture maritime [body in charge of France’s coastal waters], awareness-raising among people involved in boats and sailing, heightened security in ports and, finally, a strengthening of the fight against people-smuggling networks: 10 rings specializing in sea crossings have thus been dismantled over recent months. However, the phenomenon has continued, and a significant number of crossings has been observed during the summer as a result of more clement weather conditions.
M. Castaner and Ms Patel agreed during their meeting today to step up coordination between the British and French investigation services in order to dismantle the smuggling rings.
The two ministers also agreed to look together into the possibility of British financial support to bolster the security forces’ patrols on the coastline around Calais and thus more effectively prevent departures from on land. Within two weeks the two ministries’ services will jointly examine the possible details of this cooperation.
This contribution would add to the €7 million already pledged by the British in January to purchase specialized equipment (drones, night-vision equipment, jeeps etc.).
Christophe Castaner said: “France, like the United Kingdom, has an interest in stemming the phenomenon of illegal Channel crossings, which pose a considerable risk to those who take to the sea on makeshift vessels. Channel crossings by sea must stop being an option for those wishing to reach British territory illegally from Hauts-de-France. A new British financial commitment would enable us to beef up the existing patrols and increase our effectiveness. We’ll be able to make an assessment at the end of the year.”
M. Castaner and Ms Patel also discussed the issue of the UK’s exit from the European Union, due on 31 October. In the event of a no-deal Brexit materializing, the two ministers agreed to maintain close coordination in order to limit potential disruption.
They will also make sure to maintain the free flow of crossings at French-British borders. With regard to the rights of British citizens to stay in France and French people in the UK, the necessary legal frameworks in the event of a no-deal Brexit are already in place and will limit the difficulties. Finally, regarding Franco-British cooperation on security and counter-terrorism, the two ministers emphasized the need to take full advantage of – or create if need be – the necessary tools and cooperation projects to ensure that security levels on French and British territory remain unchanged.
In Christophe Castaner’s view, “it’s crucial to maintain close cooperation with the UK, whatever the future political developments on Brexit, in order to continue ensuring European citizens’ security.”./.