Britain is to pay France almost half a billion pounds over the next three years in a high-stakes gamble to end Channel migrant crossings.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak committed to sending Paris £478million (540million euros) to fund a new detention centre on the continent and hundreds of extra French law enforcement officers.
The announcement came as he met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in a show of new cross-Channel harmony following a fractious period after Brexit.
Mr Sunak hailed an ‘entente renewed’ as they spoke together at the Elysee Palace, while Mr Macron referred to him as ‘dear Rishi’, after having a strained relationship with predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
But the two sides have not discussed a returns agreement to send failed asylum seekers back across the Channel.
Tory backbencher Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, told MailOnline the ‘eye-watering’ financial commitment Mr Sunak made today needed to be ‘met by equally determined French action to actually stop the boats leaving France’.
Meanwhile, former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage despaired at the PM’s decision to hand over the vast sum in the absence of a returns agreement.
‘Macron makes it clear there is no deal on the return of illegal migrants, and the Brits will pay yet more money for nothing,’ Mr Farage said.
The French President had dismissed the question of a returns agreement at a joing press conference with the PM this afternoon, saying it was an issue for Brussels and London to hammer out.
‘This is not an agreement between the UK and France, but an agreement between the UK and the EU,’ Mr Macron said.
He also took a swipe at the UK’s decision to quit the EU, saying ‘all the problems we have are the consequence of Brexit. Probably they were underestimated’.
Mr Sunak expressed his hope that in the future the UK may still be able to sign a returns agreement with France, saying: ‘Going forward there will be more that we can do.’
Rishi Sunak, speaking at a press conference today with France’s Emmanuel Macron, has committed to sending Paris £478million to fund a new detention centre
The PM and French President put on a show of new cross-Channel harmony following a fractious period after Brexit
Mr Sunak hailed an ‘entente renewed’ as they spoke together at the Elysee Palace, while Mr Macron referred to him as ‘dear Rishi’
Mr Macron’s closeness with Mr Sunak was apparent after his strained relationship with the PM’s predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss
But the PM and French President have not discussed a returns agreement to send failed asylum seekers back across the Channel
The summit comes after a period of sour Anglo-French relations. The nations have clashed over post-Brexit fishing rights and other issues
Mr Sunak’s two predecessors also riled France with jibes at the alliance last year and part of his mission is to restore the entente cordial. Here Mr Sunak and Mr Macron meet young leaders in the Elysee Palace today
It came as a new poll today suggested the Government’s tough new action on migrants was not winning over voters. A survey by Omnisis found support for the Tories had fallen by five points in a week.
Included in the deal are plans for a new, permanent French mobile policing unit dedicated to tackling small boats. France will deploy more drones and aircraft and step up intelligence sharing.
There will also be a new 24-hour ‘zonal coordination centre’ with UK personnel embedded in it.
Mr Sunak said: ‘We don’t need to manage this problem, we need to break it. And today, we have gone further than ever before to put an end to this disgusting trade in human life.
‘Working together, the UK and France will ensure that nobody can exploit our systems with impunity.’
Mr Macron said: ‘In the fight against illegal immigration we wish to make progress in lockstep.
‘We’re aware of the human issues and the extreme sensitivity of these issues.’
The package the UK has agreed with France to tackle migrants crossing the Channel will see hundreds of extra French law enforcement officers using enhanced technology and intelligence to prevent the small boats.
For the first time, the UK will help fund a detention centre in France to enhance its ability to cope with the level of people being trafficked across the Channel.
‘This new centre will support French efforts to increase detention capacity, allowing more migrants who might otherwise travel by dangerous and illegal routes to the UK to be removed from the French coast,’ the UK Government said.
‘Building on our existing partnership, which saw twice as many illegal crossings stopped in 2022 than 2021, today’s agreement will also more than double the number of personnel deployed in northern France to tackle small boats, with over half of these in place by the end of the year. The UK will contribute funding towards this.’
Mr Macron said he and Mr Sunak had agreed to ‘heightened coordination’ and ‘new initiatives’ to tackle the Channel migrant crisis.
A new poll today suggested the Government’s tough new action on migrants was not winning over voters
Yesterday, interior ministers from France, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands clashed with Italy, Greece and Spain over EU rules requiring them to take back migrants who entered the bloc when they arrived in their territories
The UK has already committed more than £300million to France in the last decade to help tackle unauthorised migration.
More than 3,000 people have already made the perilous sea journey this year, with almost 46,000 arriving by unofficial routes in 2022.
That is despite Mr Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman announcing a £63million package to increase patrol officers by 40 per cent four months ago. That package followed a £55million deal in 2021.
It is the first time the UK will contribute to building a detention centre in France to help deal with the numbers of people being trafficked.
Ministers say twice as many unauthorised crossings were stopped last year than in the previous 12 months and hope the new drones, aircraft and other surveillance technologies being funded will increase this.
Britain had hoped to secure Mr Macron’s active support at the summit for a long-term deal, similar to the EU’s existing ‘Dublin’ rules, to return illegal immigrants who cross the English Channel.
But European diplomats said beforehand the request would be rejected at a time when France is accusing other member states, such as neighbouring Italy, of failing to take back migrants.
Yesterday, interior ministers from France, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands clashed with Italy, Greece and Spain over EU rules requiring them to take back migrants who entered the bloc when they arrived in their territories.
One diplomat told The Times: ‘Why would Macron take back Brexit Britain’s returns, or ask others to do so, when other EU members, like Italy, are not following European rules? It will not happen. It is a pipe dream.’