Calais Jungle refugee row played down by UK and French governments

Two governments say co-operation will continue for "years to come" after French threats to move camp to British soil

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Tuesday 30 August 2016 15:22 BST

The British and French governments have played-down a row over the Calais "jungle" by claiming their co-operation on the migrant camp will continue for "years to come".

Home Secretary Amber Rudd and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve said the two countries would continue "working together to strengthen" security at the camp, tackle organised crime and provide aid.

It follows calls from other senior French politicians to close the controversial camp and move the British border controls around which it is based back to UK soil.

The joint statement from the British and French ministers also emphasised a commitment to intelligence sharing, after reports suggested the UK could threaten to withdraw it as a bargaining chip to ensure border controls remain in Calais.

The statement read: "In the face of the challenges posed by ongoing migratory flows in Europe, and taking into account the migratory pressure in the Calais region and the particularly difficult humanitarian situation, we are committed to working together to strengthen the security of our shared border, to strongly diminish the migratory pressure in Calais and preserve the vital economic link supported by the juxtaposed controls in Calais."

It also pledged to "strengthen links through sharing of intelligence and closer working on investigations" and to "deepen" collaboration on tackling radicalisation.

It went on: "We look forward to our countries’ collaboration on these and other important issues in the months and years to come."

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president running for office again, has called for changes to the Le Touquet agreement, which allows the establishment of British border controls in Calais.

In a speech at the weekend, he said: “I’m demanding the opening of a centre in Britain to deal with asylum seekers in Britain, so that Britain can do the work that concerns them.

“The Jungle should not be in Calais or anywhere else, because this is a republic and those with no rights to be here should return to their country.”

Xavier Bertrand, the regional president who backs Sarcozy in his presidential bid, told the BBC: “It’s not possible to keep people here without a new agreement between the two governments.”

Officially the border control accord is bi-lateral and therefore remains valid even if Britain leaves the EU, though government sources in Paris have suggested it is “unlikely” to continue the treaty with a “non-EU state”.

Comments attributed to a Whitehall source in The Times appeared to threaten the withdrawal of security cooperation if the French back out of the Le Touquet agreement.

“They depend on us for a lot of security advice and co-operation after the Nice attack,” the source said.

“There are other elements in our security relationship that I don’t think they would be interested in having changed."

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham said explicitly linking the border agreement with the Nice attack was “crass and insensitive”.

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