Europe

Macron fires back at Priti Patel – accuses Britain of being ‘provocative’ in migrant row

Migrants crisis: Pearsall comments on asylum application backlog

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The longstanding dispute has intensified in recent days after huge numbers crossed the Channel to reach England from the French coast, with London accusing Paris of not doing enough to stop them. The tensions have added to a litany of post-Brexit strains between Britain and France.

Mr Macron said the influx of migrants was creating a very difficult situation for residents of the French port city of Calais.

The French president said: “I will undertake reforms in the framework of the French presidency of the EU,” referring to the imminent takeover of the rotating role by France at the start of next year.

Mr Macron also said: “We have the British, who oscillate between partnership and provocation… we must step up collaboration”.

According to British figures, 1,185 migrants crossed the Channel last Thursday, a new record that smashed the previous daily high of 853.

French authorities say around 15,400 migrants have crossed the Channel between 1 January and 31 August, of whom 3,500 were rescued “in distress” and brought back to France.

In July, Britain agreed to give an additional £54million (€62.7million) to France for border security, adding to the hundreds of millions provided over the last 15 years to boost security around Calais and other ports.

The first payments of the sum have already been paid to France, with Home Secretary Priti Patel under pressure to deliver results following the payment.

The French Government has backed up the words of the President when it comes to hitting back at Britain.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin was equally vocal against Britain.

He said: “The British must stop using us as punching bags for their domestic politics.”

Suggesting that the British were creating barriers to the French authorities doing their jobs, he added: “I will tell my British counterpart that NGOs preventing police from working are mostly British NGOs.”

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The French minister argued the influx of people risking their lives to reach the UK has something to do with the British labour market.

He said: “The UK mostly works thanks to a reserve army, as Marx would say, of irregular workers who can be hired at low cost.”

Britain has suffered from a shortage of low-skilled workers since Brexit took effect, with logistics, retail, agricultural and logistics staff most notably in extremely short supply.

Downing Street said the UK continues to consider France a “close ally” and wants to “work constructively” to tackle Channel crossings.

According to UK government data, 18,000 crossings have been prevented this year, and there have been 300 arrests and 65 convictions.

A spokesman for Downing Street when addressing the issue said: “It is clear that we need to keep working with our French counterparts to do more to prevent these crossings, which are putting lives at risk.”

He added: “That is why the home secretary is looking to speak to her counterpart to make those points and address this unexpected rise in illegal migrants arriving from France which we are seeing playing out in front of us.”

Mr Darmanin’s comments come as the Franco-British row over migration escalates.

Unnamed UK ministers believe French President Emmanuel Macron is using the crisis “to punish Britain for Brexit.”

The tactic comes on top of the so-called fishing wars in which France has also seen political clashes with London.

Paris claims the UK has not cooperated in issuing a number of licences for French trawlers to fish in British waters.

France has threatened to impose sanctions, enhance customs checks, block ports and cut off electricity supplies to the UK in retaliation.

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