Daily Mail

Priti says PM must get boats deal with Macron

- By David Churchill Chief Political Correspond­ent

PRITI Patel has urged Rishi Sunak to use a summit with Emmanuel Macron today to push for a deal to let Britain return Channel migrants to EU countries.

The former home secretary said this was crucial to help end the small boats crisis as well as clear a huge backlog of asylum cases.

She urged the Prime Minister to capitalise on the goodwill created through a post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland to convince Mr Macron to broker a bloc-wide migrant returns agreement. Before Brexit, Britain could send asylum seekers back to countries such as Greece and Italy without considerin­g their case if they lodged a claim there when arriving in the EU.

But UK ministers have not negotiated a replacemen­t for the scheme, known as the Dublin III Regulation.

It means that thousands of asylum seekers are languishin­g in Britain who could potentiall­y have been deported by now.

Ms Patel also took a swipe at her successor Suella Braverman’s plan for tackling small boats by saying that some measures springing from her own Bill, the Nationalit­y and Borders Act 2022, still needed to be implemente­d.

Mr Sunak will travel to Paris today to meet the French president in the first Anglo-France summit for five years. In a sign of the importance being placed on it for rebooting relations, he will be accompanie­d by six Cabinet ministers, including the secretarie­s of state for foreign affairs, home affairs and defence.

Britain hopes to secure a longterm deal with the EU to return illegal immigrants who cross the Channel. In exchange the UK would accept refugees from the EU.

But Elysee Palace officials in Paris have suggested Mr Macron will play hardball over the issue, with an agreement not expected because EU leaders want a bloc-wide deal.

Instead, Mr Sunak and Mr Macron appear to be on course to agree a long-term multi-million pound deal to boost French beach patrols with

‘Shared global outlook’

extra surveillan­ce and officers to smash people-smuggling gangs.

There is scepticism about whether it will provide value for money however because Britain has handed over nearly £200million to France since 2018 to tackle the small boats crisis – yet 45,728 migrants still arrived in Kent last year.

Ms Patel, who was home secretary from July 2019 to September last year, called on Mr Sunak to lobby Mr Macron to broker a returns deal using his key role in the EU.

She said: ‘He needs to push for a returns agreement. The EU has been dragging its feet for too long. They all talk about an EU-wide returns agreement but actually the EU is not speaking with one voice.

‘But it’s about time they recognised there’s a global migration crisis and that everyone needs to work together to solve this, and Rishi needs to go and make that case.

‘There’s no one single solution to fixing illegal migration and stopping Channel crossings. But this is what he should be asking for and it would be key for returning people who have already travelled through a safe country and have no right to be here.

‘These crossings are dangerous, they’re illegal and we’ve seen the most appalling consequenc­es because of them, so it’s right that the Government does everything possible to fix this.’

Other topics to be discussed today include collaborat­ion on nuclear energy and the defence industry.

Among goodwill gestures set to be agreed is a deal to make school trips easier. Mr Sunak 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.’

The PM’s spokesman said: ‘It’s important that we do secure a [returns] agreement with the EU, and France will be an important component of that.’

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