Conservative MPs have voiced anger over Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £500m deal with France to address the ongoing Channel migrant crisis. The deal includes the creation of a new detention centre in France for migrants who attempt to reach the UK in small boats, as well as the deployment of British officials in France to collaborate on law enforcement. However, the deal has been met with criticism from MPs who questioned the decision ahead of the upcoming Budget that is expected to see a continued financial squeeze on public spending.
In defence of the deal, the Prime Minister has claimed that it will help to reduce the number of crossings and represents a “sensible investment”. Sunak visited Paris on Friday for the first Franco-British Summit in five years, where he spoke with President Emmanuel Macron for over an hour to finalise the details of the deal.
The UK has agreed to pay €541m (£480m) over the next three years to cover the cost of policing the border. Additionally, a detention centre near Dunkerque will be established to hold illegal migrants before being sent back to their home country or the last safe country they travelled through on their way to France. Macron has not agreed to accept migrants whose asylum claims are rejected by the UK, stating that only an EU-wide deal would be effective.
Conservative MPs have raised concerns over the cost of the deal, which comes amidst the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Ex-minister Tim Loughton stated, “We can continue throwing more money, more kit and more joint intelligence and preferably even more joint patrols on the beaches, but all the time the French refuse to arrest them when they intercept them – so they just intercept the same people the following night with a new boat.” Jonathan Gullis also added that people had “major concerns about such a large sum”.
Despite the criticism, Sunak and Macron have agreed to co-operate more closely on defence and energy policy, including building more electricity interconnectors beneath the Channel. Macron described the deal as a “moment of reunion, of reconnection and of a new beginning”, with Sunak responding by praising Macron’s response to the death of Elizabeth II, stating “I feel very fortunate to be serving alongside you and incredibly excited about the future we can build together.”