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France rejects British claims they agreed to prevent ‘all migrant boat crossings’

France rejects British claims they agreed to prevent ‘all migrant boat crossings’

Tensions between the UK and France over migrant boats making it across the Channel rose on Wednesday after French officials rejected British claims they had agreed to prevent “100% of crossings”.

The new episode in the long-running row erupted 48 hours after the UK home secretary, Priti Patel, met her counterpart Gérald Darmanin in Paris to discuss the issue, which is poisoning relations between the two countries.Prior to Monday evening’s meeting, Darmanin had issued a tough statement accusing the UK of using France as a “punching bag” for domestic political squabbles.

The “joint statement” issued by the Home Office after their talks said: “Both the home Secretary and interior minister agreed to strengthen operational cooperation further. More must be done to stop the dangerous crossings. They agreed to accelerate the delivery of the commitments made in the joint agreement of July 2021 to deliver on their joint determination to prevent 100% of crossings and make this deadly route unviable.”

However, on Wednesday the French Embassy in London contested the “joint statement”. It tweeted: “For the record, the 100% figure was not agreed between the Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister @GDarmanin and should not be presented as an agreed commitment. It is not. And it is not part of the joint statement #ChannelCrossings”.https://twitter.com/FranceintheUK/status/1461019816249200640

Asked to justify the “100%” figure, a Home Office source pointed to a television report on Sky News on 11 October including an interview with Darmanin. The French minister told the broadcaster: “If I look back over the last three months – because the summer is a period when one can cross the sea more easily because the sea is calmer – we have increased by 15% the interceptions of small boots from 50 to 65%. It’s a good score and I am sure we can reach 100% if the UK gives us what they promised.”

Darmanin was referring to the €60m (£54m) the UK has agreed to pay France for patrolling the northern French coastline and stopping people from making the perilous journey across the Channel.

On Wednesday, Home Office minister Tom Pursglove declined to tell MPs how much of the £54m has so far been handed over to the French government. At the end of October, French sources indicated that they had only received about £17m.

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