Top NewsSmall boats: Paying France to stop crossings is sensible,...

Small boats: Paying France to stop crossings is sensible, says PM

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  • By Chris Mason & Kate Vannell
  • BBC News

Rishi Sunak said on the sidelines of an Anglo-French summit in Paris that spending more money with France to stop small boat crossings was a “wise investment”.

The Prime Minister has met French President Emmanuel Macron and the two are holding a press conference later.

Speaking ahead of their meeting, Mr Sunack said the £63m a year to increase policing on France’s beaches was paying off for the UK.

He argued that this was better than paying immigrants to England.

“I think everyone knows we’re spending £5.5m a day extra on hotels – we don’t do that and the best way to stop that is to stop people coming in the first place,” he said.

The UK government hopes to use the summit to boost UK-French efforts to stop migrants crossing the English Channel.

But the two countries are not expected to reach a deal on returning migrants arriving in the UK to France.

The French government is understood to want a deal between the UK and the EU, disappointing British diplomats who want to see swift action.

“We want an EU-UK withdrawal agreement and will push it forward,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.

“But it’s equally important to have work on the ground now to stop the crossings we see even in these winter months.”

A French government source said: “At this stage, and because of Brexit, there is no deal between France and the UK.”

The conflict in Ukraine, nuclear power and renewable energy are also on the agenda of the summit.

Mr Sunak also said he planned to speak with the French president about relations with China ahead of Mr Macron’s visit to the country.

The Prime Minister met Mr Macron at the Elysee Palace on Friday morning and the two are now taking part in a roundtable discussion with French and British companies.

Mr Sunak will be joined on his trip by Foreign Secretary James Smart, Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Environment Secretary Therese Coffey.

The summit comes in the same week that Mr Sunak unveiled his plans to stop small boats from crossing the canal.

Under the plans, anyone who entered the UK illegally would not only be removed within 28 days, but would also be barred from regaining or claiming British citizenship in the future.

Those arriving on UK shores will be returned to their home country or another “safe third country” such as Rwanda.

image caption,

After being rescued by the RNLI, the group of migrants were brought to Dungeness in Kent

The British government feels that relations with their opposite numbers in Paris on this issue have improved significantly over the past two years.

But Downing Street’s desire to “make small boat passage across the Channel impossible” is a bold ambition – especially as the numbers to the contrary continue to rocket.

Rather than a major breakthrough, an announcement of deeper cooperation on the issue is expected.

Officials point out that both the UK and France are nuclear powers, members of the G7, G20 and NATO security alliances and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Brexit has been a stone in the shoe of relations between the UK and France in recent years.

It’s a month of particularly intense activity between the two countries – King Charles and the Queen Consort will arrive in France in a few weeks.

Next year marks the 120th anniversary of the Entente Cordial, which ended centuries of rivalry between the two countries.

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