France rejects David Cameron's claim it would let Calais refugee camp move to Kent

The PM has been accused of 'scaremongering' over the issue

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Indy Politics

The French Government has dismissed David Cameron’s claim that it would scrap a border agreement with Britain in the event of a Brexit.

The agreement, drawn up as part of a bilateral treaty between the two countries, allows the UK to operate its border controls on the French side of the channel.

The Prime Minister was accused of scaremongering yesterday when he said leaving the EU would lead to the deal being scrapped – and the refugee and migrant camps in Calais relocating to southern England as a result.

A French interior ministry source however pointed the Daily Telegraph newspaper to a recent statement by Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and said it had “no plans” to change the agreement.

Mr Cazeneuve had explicitly ruled out changing the border agreement and said such a move could lead to a humanitarian disaster.

"Calling for the border with the English to be opened is not a responsible solution,” he said in October last year.

“It would send a signal to people smugglers and would lead migrants to flow to Calais in far greater numbers. 

“A humanitarian disaster would ensue. It is a foolhardy path, and one the government will not pursue."

The rejection appears to be embarrassing for Mr Cameron, who made the argument in a speech yesterday in the hope of convincing people concerned about immigration to back EU membership. 

However, Sir Peter Ricketts, former UK ambassador to France and former national security advisor to David Cameron warned that France’s stance might not last forever.

He said that the French government was using up significant political capital and police resources in its operation in Calais and that opposition parties were keen to pull out of the agreement.

“This treaty is a bilateral treaty but it was made in a multilateral context where Britain and France are working together across a whole range of issues,” he told BBC Radio 4.

“If the context changed and Britain made a major decision to leave the EU I think it’s highly likely France would review its position too.

“There’s a lot of pressure already, if you look at the main opposition party in France, Les Republicains, they’re already openly calling for that treaty [to be scrapped].”

Thousands of people are living in camps in northern France, including Calais and Dunkirk, unable to reach the UK.

The number of people living in the camp is small compared to the total number of refugees entering Europe as a whole – with millions entering the continent in 2016, according to a European Commission estimate.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has previously called for the Home Office to be “reasonable” and consider allowing those people in the camps with links to the UK to be admitted.

Mr Cameron previously sparked outrage by referring to the residents of the camp as a "bunch of migrants".