Never plain sail­ing for Home Secretary

Min­is­ter in dilemma over Chan­nel mi­grants

Sunday Sun - - Comment&analysis -

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

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