Migrant crisis: Ross Atkins on how Brexit is fuelling the situation
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Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Britain should be held responsible for issues in the English Channel – blaming “evil” Brexit for stopping any possible efforts to work closely with France. Mr Asselborn told Deutschlandfunk: “People want to go to Great Britain, but can no longer get into the trucks at the Eurotunnel. That’s why they only have the sea. “It is a fact that the compass of the people who come from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia is set to Great Britain.”
Mr Asselborn urged Britain to comply with a treaty concluded with France to monitor the strait.
He went on to tell the German radio station: “The French and the British have agreed that the British will help the French with border protection and sea rescue. This year the British still have to pay the French 62.7 million euros but they are not doing that.”
He then said the French would therefore say: ‘If we had this money, we could improve surveillance so that fewer people get into life-threatening situations.’
The longest-serving foreign minister in the EU held Brexit jointly responsible for the messy situation between France and the United Kingdom.
He said “Brexit is evil”, a comment noted by Germany’s Junge Freiheit newspaper as a reference to Britain being unable to “master” the Channel without France and the EU.
Mr Asselborn also took the opportunity to defend French integrity.
He said: “You can’t blame France here. The French are powerless when a crowd of people like in Calais doesn’t want asylum in France.”
The interior ministers of France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany met with representatives of the EU Commission in Calais on Sunday to discuss the situation in the English Channel.
Home Secretary Priti Patel was initially invited to the discussion but this was cancelled following French President Emmanuel Macron taking offence to a letter written by Boris Johnson suggesting ideas to stem the problem.
One of the ideas proposed in the letter to Mr Macron, share publicly on Twitter, suggested France should take back migrants that had made it across the Channel.
Last week, 27 migrants drowned there while trying to cross over to the UK by boat.
The round of ministers had agreed to monitor the strait “day and night” with an aircraft from the European border protection agency Frontex.
French interior minister Gérald Darmanin had expressed his willingness to work with “his British friends”.
Britain offered to provide extra feet on the ground in the North of France but Paris rejected the offer on the grounds of sovereignty.
Also on Monday morning, Mr Darmanin called on the UK to “change its legislation” on migration in order to solve the crisis. It has seen hundreds of people in small boats taking the dangerous sea route from Calais to reach England almost daily.
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Mr Darmanin said the question of cross-Channel migration was “first and foremost an English issue”.
He added: “I’m not to take any decision for the British people, but we need to discuss it with the English.”
The Minister slammed Britain’s work code in the process.
He believes migrants are choosing to take a risky path “because there is no legal path for immigrants to go to the UK… and because it’s possible to work without an ID card in England.”
He went onto claim: “One of the engines of the English economic policy — not all of it, obviously — is to employ workers illegally.”
Backing up the Interior Minister, Mr Beaune added: “If the British are not going back to a certain number of checks, on more humane, more compliant labour market regulation, this attraction will remain.”
2021 has seen over 23,000 migrants illegally cross the Channel and enter Britain so far this year, three times up on last year.
The UK argues that France is using the migrant crisis to punish the UK for Brexit.
President Macron has also been firm with Britain over the issuing of licences to fish in British waters.
Sanctions, tariffs and extra border checks have been mentioned as possible forms of punishment against Britain over the fishing licences.
France has also threatened to cut off power supplies to Jersey and mainland Britain, yet so far has solely increased unit prices at this stage.
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