What Is In Rishi Sunak's New Migrant Deal With France?

The UK is set to fund a detention centre in France for the first time ever.
French president Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with UK PM Rishi Sunak at the end of their Paris press conference
French president Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with UK PM Rishi Sunak at the end of their Paris press conference
GONZALO FUENTES via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak and the French president Emmanuel Macron have just unveiled a new deal in an effort to reduce the number of migrants crossing the English Channel.

The whole migrant crisis has been a political headache for the government, considering more than 45,000 people came into the UK via the Channel in 2022, compared to 300 in 2018.

‘Stop the boats’ was one of the UK prime minister’s targets for 2023, which is why there has been so much government furore around it this week.

This new arrangement with France also comes on top of the Illegal Migration Bill Downing Street revealed earlier this week, which means people who enter the UK illegally cannot stay here.

So here’s what you need to know about what the UK has described as an “unparalleled multi-year agreement” with its European neighbour, and why it’s important.

What is the UK doing?

The UK is funding a new detention centre in northern France

This is the first time the UK has offered money for such a facility. It means people can be “removed from the French coast” rather than travelling across the English Channel.

It will double the amount it pays France

The UK is going to pay than doubling the annual amount it already gives to France.

These are the new numbers the UK plans to pay:

€141 million in 2023-24

€191 million in 2024-25

€209 million in 2025-26

That works out to a total of £479 million (€541 million) over the next three years for the over all plan.

In 2022-23, the UK was said to pay around £64 million.

What is France doing?

More patrols to halt Channel crossings

An extra 500 new French law enforcement officers will patrol the beaches.

There will also be a “new highly trained permanent French mobile policing unit dedicated to tackling small boats”.

The pair suggested there would be more than double the current number of personnel deployed in northern France to tackle small boats, although the UK will contribute some funds towards this.

More technology

Drones, aircrafts, surveillance technology will be used to monitor people at the English Channel.

24/7 zonal coordination centre

This will have permanent UK liaison officers providing all relevant French law enforcement partners information, so they can organise a collaborative response to the illegal migration.

That is on top of the UK’s own small boats operations command.

What about this ‘returns policy’?

Macron made it very clear – there is no bilateral agreement for France to take back migrants who try to cross the channel.

He said that was an EU issue, and that the problems posed by people smugglers were larger than just France and the UK.

Macron also said the “Dublin agreement can’t be implemented any more” – that’s the EU law which states which nation is responsible for an individual’s asylum application, usually the first EU country they land in.

The Illegal Migration Bill unveiled this week proposed sending illegal migrants back to their home country if it’s safe, or to another safe third country like Rwanda.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said that not getting this returns agreement makes a “bad situation worse”.

Is it just about the UK and France?

The two world leaders also said there would be more co-ordination between the UK’s National Crime Agency and its French counterpart via officers based in countries along the routes where people traffickers travel is expected, too.

The PM already re-established the Calais group of Northern European nations last year.

Are they in sync over migrants?

They certainly wanted the public to think so.

Macron said he wishes to make “progress in lockstep” with the UK when it comes to the migrants.

The pair claimed that 30,000 small boat crossings were prevented last year as well and organised crime networks were dismantled too due to the joint work from the UK and France.

And it says joint measures taken with France in 2022 increased patrols by 40% and saw twice as many illegal crossings being stopped, which cost €70 million.

What about relations between the UK and France now?

Relations between the two countries became rather strained during Brexit negotiations.

And while Macron suggested that Brexit is still perceived as a mistake for the UK, he made it clear that he won’t let it come between their two countries – adding that this new deal was not between the UK and France but the UK and the EU.

Both Sunak and Macron said it was a new beginning for the relations between their countries, and made it clear that they are on the same page on matters beyond the migrants, too.

That includes their shared action against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Macron saying: “Russia cannot and must not win this war.”

Sunak agreed, telling reporters: “We want Ukraine to win this war and we’re absolutely united in that. Our job is to put Ukraine in the strongest possible position.”


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