Never plain sailing for Home Secretary
Minister in dilemma over Channel migrants
ARE the French authorities doing enough to curb the surge of migrants travelling in unsafe boats across the treacherous waters of the English Channel to reach British shores?
British Ministers seem to be satisfied with what the French are doing – but is it really enough? It seems smugglers are openly touting for business in Calais.
So what does the Home Secretary Sajid Javid now do, after andandoning his South African Christmas break?
He faces a dilemma: Whenever British rescue ships spot these migrants trying to reach the UK, they take them aboard, meaning smugglers can reassure future “clients” that they stand a good chance of being rescued by British boats, which will complete their journey for them.
There is now a demand coming from MPS that since these people are trying to sneak unlawfully into the UK, they should straightaway be returned to France. As Tory MP Charlie Elphicke has said: “You don’t deter burglars by leaving the front door open.”
It cannot be right that, if even for humane reasons, Britain is helping the smugglers do their dirty work for them. A big challenge for the Home Secretary.
You do not have to be a professional clairvoyant to predict that 12 months from now the political landscape in the United Kingdom – and, indeed, across Europe as well – will be unrecognisable from what it is today.
I think we can look forward to major political upheavals during 2019. For a start, Theresa May’s tenancy at Downing Street is beginning to look exceedingly shaky. There is still little sign she will win the critical Brexit vote in Parliament, week commencing January 14. If that does go pearshaped, the UK is faced with crashing out of Europe on March 29 without a deal – the prospect of which, according to International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, could mean only a 50-50 chance of Brexit actually happening. And if all this does occur, and the negotiations end in a shambles, May might well not survive politically until the end of the year.
Rarely has Parliament been in such a complicated impasse, with the Tory Party, especially, tearing itself to shreds. What a shambles it has all been. Meanwhile, the European Parliament elections in 2019 could lead to a massive change of personnel in that assembly. And many of the new arrivals will not allow themselves to be bossed around – as has been the case – by unelected grandees.
So, not only the UK, but the EU as well, will look vastly different from what they do today.
And 2019 could – just could – be the year Jeremy Corbyn may be given the opportunity to have a shot at Downing Street.
Few people are more contemptuous of the European Union than Sir Bernard Ingham who was Margaret Thatcher’s “rottweiler” press secretary during her premiership.
He has suggested that if the EU gets even more awkward than they have been in these last-minute negotiations, the UK should repay the billions we allegedly owe them “at the rate of 10 bob a week”.
How refreshing it is to have a little levity introduced into these grim events – although the hardfaced men of Brussels won’t find it very funny.
I am convinced if the late Paddy Ashdown had been a Conservative or Labour politician, rather than a Lib Dem, he would at least have been a Cabinet Minister, and probably PM. Indeed, at one stage he was so close politically to Tony Blair, then PM, that many – including possibly Ashdown himself – thought Blair was about to offer him a Cabinet post. But it was not to be. He was a natural leader, as his military service in Northern Ireland and the Special Boat Service demonstrated.
Charles Kennedy, a successor as Lib Dem leader, used to say Ashdown would ring him up regularly before dawn with his plans and strategies for the party.
■ Home Secretary Sajid Javid meeting Border Force staff on board HMC Searcher in Dover, England. The UK has stepped up patrols in the English Channel