Borders minister Damian Hinds claimed on Monday that the UK still has a constructive relationship with France, despite the ongoing complaints from Paris about working with Britain over the migrant crisis.
France said the UK has not yet paid “one euro” of the £54 million home secretary Priti Patel promised to hand over to help Paris stop migrants travelling across the English Channel.
Sky News also filmed armed police standing by as migrants left the French shores for Britain over the weekend – almost 1,100 refugees are believed to have crossed in the UK on Friday and Saturday.
Yet, Hinds told Sky News: “We have a good and constructive relationship with the French authorities.”
Presenter Kay Burley laughed and said: “I’m not sure the French authorities agree with you on that.”
Hinds continued: “The work they do along that coast is incredibly important. It is life-saving by the way.
“The French authorities’ work is absolutely invaluable in that regard.”
He conceded: “We are working out the mechanisms for that pay.”
When Burley suggested they only have to exchange bank details, Hinds said: “Well – no. You really don’t, you really don’t.”
He refused to clarify when “in the coming weeks” the money might arrive in France’s pocket, and said it would only happen when “departmental processes” have been completed.
Burley pointed out that a French minister has previously said the UK should “just grow up”.
She added: “It doesn’t sound to me as though it’s a particularly strong bond at the moment, and they’re threatening to cut the [fuel] supply.”
Hinds replied: “France and ourselves are some of the strongest allies in the world, with a great deal in common.”
France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin did tell Sky News on Sunday: “The English are people of honour, so I am certain that is an accounting delay.”
Yet, only last month, Paris accused the UK of blackmail when home secretary Priti Patel considered withholding the £54 million.
BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker asked Hinds a similar question about the UK’s relationship with France.
He said: “Would it help if we gave the French some of that promised money? The £54 million promised under the deal to tackle migrants.
“Because the French interior minister said at the weekend that not one euro has been sent by the British government following that agreement.
“They say they’ve hired more officers, they’ve purchased technology, they’re trying to protect the border and yet that promised money from the UK he says not one Euro has gone their way. Why is that the case?”
Hinds replied: “Well, I mean, that’s an administrative question.”
Walker asked again: “But you are the minister for security and border so you’re probably the right person to ask, aren’t you?”
Hinds said: “Yes, and I’m answering you. So that’s an administrative process to work out the exact kind of flows of money, exactly how that will happen and exactly when.”
Walker said: “So, it’s an administrative error and not a deliberate withholding of funds?”
Hinds replied: “No, I didn’t say it was an error. I said it was a process to work through when you’re transferring what are actually very large sums of taxpayer money.”
Hinds had the same response when LBC’s Nick Ferrari quizzed him on when the UK was going to pay France.
The borders minister said: “We work very closely with colleagues in France on the coast there, and that is a really really important part of the effort because these wicked people who profit from putting vulnerable people’s lives directly in danger by sticking them on these unsafe crafts.”
Unsurprisingly, few people think the UK and France have a good relationship now.