Deal between UK and France over small boat crossings ‘in final stages’, says Number 10 | Politics News


A deal between the UK and France to tackle people crossing the Channel in small boats is in its “final stages”, Downing Street has said.

Rishi Sunak met Emmanuel Macron, the French president, earlier today at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt to discuss the issue, with the prime minister saying he left “with renewed confidence and optimism”.

Mr Sunak also told reporters there would be “more details in the coming weeks”.

But pressed on those details later, his official spokesman revealed a deal was close to being done and talks on the specifics were taking place separately, indicating they would involve Home Office officials.

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Almost 40,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel so far this year.

Reports claim Mr Sunak wants to agree targets with Mr Macron for stopping boats, and a minimum number of French officers patrolling beaches, while he also wants to be able to deploy Border Force officers in France.

The PM said he was “determined to grip” the situation, but added there was “not one simple solution that’s going to solve it overnight”, pledging to work with other European leaders on the “shared challenge”.

Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would “work upstream” with Mr Macron “to stop the smugglers in the first place” if he were PM, adding: “Before I was a politician, I was director of public prosecutions, I know how these cross-border operations work.

“That is the discussion I would have, I hope it is the discussion that our prime minister will have.”

The migrant crisis was brought into focus last week by reports of overcrowding at a processing centre in Kent, where 4,000 people who had made the crossing were packed into a space designed to hold 1,600.

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, Sir Roger Gale, the veteran Tory MP, said: “We are now nearly back to where we need to be with the Manston processing centre operating efficiently.”

He asked for assurance from Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, that “Manston is a processing centre and not an accommodation centre”.

Mr Jenrick replied that it was not the government’s “intention that Manston is turned into a permanent site for housing migrants”.

He said: “The population is now back at an acceptable level and that is a considerable achievement. It’s essential that it remains so and he is right to say that the challenge is far from over… we have to be aware of that and to plan appropriately.”


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