Harriet Harman wants France to pay up but Cameron won't play blame game

The Prime Minister is accused of ignoring warning about the escalating immigration crisis

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Downing Street announced extra measures to cope with the Calais migrants crisis yesterday, insisting David Cameron remained in charge of the situation despite embarking on his summer holiday.

Britain will fund extra security guards, CCTV cameras and floodlights on the French side of the Channel Tunnel, as well as the additional sniffer dogs and fencing announced on Friday. Yet the new measures will be seen as further evidence that the Prime Minister is taking a “sticking plaster” approach rather than a more fundamental response to the crisis.

Labour leader Harriet Harman added to the pressure on Mr Cameron yesterday when she called on him to demand compensation from the French government for British hauliers, businesses and holidaymakers affected by the chaos. No 10 responded by saying the immediate priority was security, and it was not a time to get into a “blame game” with Paris.

Mr Cameron is expected to start his family holiday, rumoured to be on the Scottish island of Jura, this week. But a spokesman insisted he remained in full charge of the country despite being away from Westminster. High-ranking ministers will, if necessary, chair the Government’s emergency committee Cobra, and more crisis meetings are expected in the next few days.

 

Officials from the Home Office, Foreign Office, Department for Business, Ministry of Defence and Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as the UK Border Force and Highways Agency, took part in the second Cobra meeting in two days yesterday.

But in a letter to Mr Cameron, Ms Harman claimed that the PM had ignored repeated warnings from Labour and hauliers about the escalating crisis in Calais and that it was wrong for UK businesses and families to bear the cost. The interim Labour leader wrote: “The Road Haulage Association has made clear the impact of the current crisis on the UK haulage industry. Furthermore, the Freight Transport Association estimates the cost to the haulage companies caught up in the operation to be £700,000 a day.

“There are also reports of other businesses having been affected, including in the fresh produce, pharmaceutical, tourism and hospitality industries, not to mention the self-employed and holidaymakers.

“It is wrong for UK businesses and families to face these costs, given border security failures in France. Your discussions with the French government should therefore include a request for compensation, backed up by any diplomatic pressure that may become necessary. Compensation should cover all losses.

“Over the last few days, your approach has been devoid of any serious solution to the crisis. You have failed to initiate any diplomatic pressure on the French government to assess asylum claims and make sure proper immigration procedures are followed. Instead you have chosen to inflame the situation with incendiary and divisive language, which will serve only to escalate the problem.

Cameron-Getty.jpg
Prime Minister David Cameron has described the migrants as a 'swarm' (Getty)

“I hope that you will now undertake the urgent diplomatic effort with France and our other European partners to bring the crisis to a close, as well as setting out what steps you intend to take in the long term to tackle the problems of people trafficking and the refugee crisis.”

Labour pointed out that compensation was paid to UK hauliers by the French government for loss of earnings following disruption in the country, including industrial action, in 1996.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister said that the blame game is not going to offer us a solution. We are all committed to working closely with the French on boosting security. Reducing disruption remains our number one priority.”

Comments