Sunak to use Macron meeting to push for France to 'go further' in stopping migrants crossing English Channel

9 March 2023, 23:29 | Updated: 10 March 2023, 00:28

Sunak and Macron
Sunak and Macron will meet at a UK-France summit in Paris on Friday. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Rishi Sunak is expected to push French President Emmanuel Macron to go further in helping the UK to stop the number of migrants crossing the English Channel.

The leaders of both countries are set to meet during a UK-France summit in Paris on Friday, where they are expected to sign off on the two countries collaborating to develop precision strike weapons to combat Russian aggression.

But in a week dominated by the government's new immigration policy, which will effectively ban migrants crossing the English channel from seeking asylum, the summit is expected to feature discussions about 'stopping the boats'.

The government is keen to pursue a bilateral returns agreement with Paris, which would allow the UK to immediately return those arriving unlawfully from France.

The meeting is unlikely to end in a breakthrough, however, with Mr Macron expected to reject the prime minister's pleas.

Labour said the prime minister must come back to the UK with a returns agreement, or he will have "failed".

Rishi Sunak said he is "up for a fight" against those who oppose the government&squot;s new migration laws
Rishi Sunak said he is "up for a fight" against those who oppose the government's new migration laws. Picture: Getty
Friday's UK-France summit is not expected to provide a breakthrough on a bilateral returns agreement between the two countries
Friday's UK-France summit is not expected to provide a breakthrough on a bilateral returns agreement between the two countries. Picture: Getty

Read More: What are Rishi Sunak's new immigration laws?

Read more: Gary Lineker sparks fury among Tory MPs after comparing migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany

"We need a new agreement with France," Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.

"Rishi Sunak will have failed if he comes back from the summit without a new returns agreement and new joint arrangements to prevent dangerous boat crossings."

It comes after the Home Secretary Suella Braverman confirmed in the House of Commons this week the government's new bill, which will see people who arrive in the UK illegally removed "in weeks" and receive a lifetime ban on claiming asylum.

Mr Sunak has said he's "up for the fight" and these "tough measures" were the only way to tackle the migrant crisis and to stop unsafe boats crossing the Channel.

"All I can say is that we have tried it every other way and it has not worked," he said.

"So I say again: my policy is very simple, it is this country—and your government—who should decide who comes here, not criminal gangs."

What is Rishi Sunak's Illegal Migration Bill?

Migrants are pictured being escorted into the port of Dover
Migrants are pictured being escorted into the port of Dover. Picture: Alamy

Essentially, the new law, also nicknamed 'Stop the Boats' wants to end illegal entry, especially via boats, as a route to asylum in the UK.The main points of the new bill are:

  • People who arrive in the UK illegally will be detained and removed within weeks of arrival. If safe, they will go back to their home country, if not, they will go to a safe third country.
  • Under 18's who arrive unaccompanied and illegally will remain in the UK until adulthood and will then be removed to a safe third country. Limited circumstances could change this.
  • Asylum seekers who enter the UK illegally will not only be removed, but also face a permanent ban from returning.
  • Any asylum claims from those who travel to the UK illegally will be deemed inadmissible and reconsidered in a third country.
  • Any legal claims that can prevent someone being removed from the UK will be limited.
  • Modern slavery claims for those travelling illegally will be disqualified.
  • There will be an annual cap on the number of refugees entering via safe routes.
Gary Lineker compared the UK government's rhetoric on migrants to 1930s Germany
Gary Lineker compared the UK government's rhetoric on migrants to 1930s Germany. Picture: Getty

The government's proposed asylum policy sparked a furious backlash among those across the political spectrum, including former footballer and TV host Gary Lineker.

The Match of the Day presenter sparked a storm by comparing the government’s new policy on migrants to language used in 1930s Germany.

He wrote: "There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

"This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the '30s."

Read More: Gary Lineker says he is ‘looking forward’ to returning to TV screens this weekend after storm over immigration comments

Downing Street later described the remarks as "not acceptable" and "disappointing".

Other top Tory MPs including immigration minister Robert Jenrick and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps also expressed their concerns.

Following the criticism on Wednesday, Lineker said he would "continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice".

Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron
Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron. Picture: Getty

As well as discussions on migration policy, the two leaders are also set to agree on working more closely on training Ukrainian marines and supplying weapons to Kyiv during a UK-France summit in Paris on Friday.

The Prime Minister said the West faced "unprecedented threats" and that he and his French counterpart wanted to "fortify" Nato so the defensive alliance is "ready to take on the challenges of the future".

During their talks at the Elysee Palace, which will include discussing a new deal on tackling unlawful migration, Downing Street said the Prime Minister and the French president would recognise Russia as a major international threat.

Read More: Russian TV propagandist claims British people are eating squirrels because of food shortages

Speaking ahead of the summit in the French capital, the Prime Minister said: "Our deep history, our proximity and our shared global outlook mean that a firm partnership between the UK and France is not just valuable, it is essential.

"From tackling the scourge of illegal migration to driving investment in one another's economies, the work we do together improves the lives of each and every person in our countries.

"Beyond that, the UK and France also have a privileged role as defenders of European and global security.

"As we face new and unprecedented threats, it is vital that we fortify the structures of our alliance so we are ready to take on the challenges of the future. That is what we will do at the UK-France summit today."

As part of their discussions, the Prime Minister and the president are expected to give the go-ahead to enhanced UK-France military co-ordination, including agreeing to scope the co-development of "next-generation deep precision strike weaponry".

Officials said the allies hope the project produces the kind of long-range capability that Nato needs to "protect against the growing threat from Russia".

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