EXCLUSIVE The EU blocks a deal which would allow Channel migrants to be sent back to France, leaked documents reveal
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Brussels has ruled out a deal which would allow Channel migrants to be sent back to France, leaked documents show.
Official records indicate the refusal came from one of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s most trusted aides.
German politician Bjoern Siebert told senior British officials the bloc will refuse to consider signing a post-Brexit ‘returns agreement’, the Mail can disclose today.
Mr Siebert, who is Mrs von der Leyen’s head of cabinet, delivered the defiant rejection at a face-to-face meeting with the Cabinet Office’s National Security Adviser Sir Tim Barrow earlier this year, the papers show.
It means Britain will remain unable to return small boat migrants to France for the foreseeable future.
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent
Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak speaks during the Conservative Party Spring Conference
The Daily Mail has seen an internal British government memo which describes the outcome of the meeting between Sir Tim and Mr Siebert. It says of the EU official: ‘He stressed that the Commission is not open to a UK-EU readmissions agreement.’
Both sides did agree to co-operate on other immigration measures, however, including moves to combat trafficking gangs, according to the memo, which was sent to a number of government departments. Last night Brussels disputed the version of events set out in the leaked memo. ‘Mr Siebert never said what it is claimed,’ a Commission spokesman said.
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French ministers insist the European Union’s border arrangements can only be decided by Brussels – something Britain regards as a moot point. If Channel migrants cannot be removed to France, the Home Office’s options are limited to sending them to their home nation – which in many cases leads to human rights challenges – or to a safe third country such as Rwanda.
However, the Government’s asylum deal with Rwanda remains in legal limbo after it was declared unlawful on human rights grounds by the Court of Appeal in June.
Rishi Sunak has repeatedly spoken of his desire to secure closer co-operation with Europe on the Channel crisis.
Its refusal to consider a returns agreement intensified pressure from within the Conservative party for Britain to leave the European Human Rights Convention.
MPs on the Right of the party insist the ECHR is the main block on returning migrants to their home nations or to Rwanda.
Last night Conservative backbencher Danny Kruger said: ‘We have now tried legal efforts, technical fixes, and international diplomacy in an attempt to stop the boats within the confines of European human rights law.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen arrives for an EU Summit
‘If the EU won’t consider a returns agreement, we will have no choice but to take back full control of our legal sovereignty.’
Mr Sunak, who has vowed to ‘stop the boats’ as one of his five key pledges to voters, said in June that closer European co-operation on border security ‘must be top of the agenda’.
When Britain was in the EU some migrants were returned under the Dublin Agreement, which allowed them to be sent back to safe countries they passed through on their way here. The PM is thought to have been aiming for an improved version of that deal.
But a government source said: ‘The EU can’t even agree a migration deal between themselves so it’s no surprise they aren’t willing to discuss a readmissions agreement with us.
‘Even under the Dublin Agreement we took more people than we sent the other way.’
The involvement of UK National Security Adviser and top diplomat Sir Tim Barrow in the talks demonstrates how Downing Street is throwing every effort at cracking the small boats crisis.
A government spokesman said: ‘We remain open to working with the EU to take forward negotiations on a UK-EU returns deal.’
It is understood that UK ministers still hope a returns deal can be agreed. They believe it would be a key factor in deterring crossings.
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