Channel crossing deal between UK and France ‘in final stages’, according to Number 10

A deal between the UK and France to tackle people crossing the Channel in small boats is in its “final stage”, Downing Street has said.

Rishi Sunak met Emmanuel Macron, the French President, earlier today at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt to discuss the issue, with the Prime Minister saying he left “with renewed confidence and optimism “.

Mr Sunak said there would be “more details in the coming weeks”.

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Pressed on those details later, his official spokesman revealed that an agreement was close to being reached and that discussions on the details were taking place separately, indicating that they would involve Home Office officials. .

Almost 40,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the English Channel so far this year.

Mr Sunak would like to agree targets with Mr Macron to stop the boats and a minimum number of French officers patrolling the beaches, and to be able to deploy border force officers to France.

PM said he was ‘committed to getting the situation under control’ but added there was ‘no simple solution that will solve it overnight’, pledging to work with other EU leaders on the “shared challenge”.

A statement by the French President’s spokesman after the meeting said the two leaders agreed to stay in touch to advance coordination between the two countries in the face of the challenge of irregular migration.

Earlier Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would ‘work upstream’ with Mr Macron ‘to stop the smugglers first’ if he was Prime Minister, adding: ‘Before being a politician, I was Director of Public Prosecutions, I know how these cross-border operations work.

“That’s the discussion I would have, I hope that’s the discussion our Prime Minister will have.”

“Challenge far from won”

The migrant crisis was highlighted last week by overcrowding at Manston Treatment Center in Kentwhere 4,000 people who have made the crossing are crammed into a space designed to hold 1,600.

It has led to growing pressure on Mr Sunak over his reappointment from Home Secretary Suella Braverman, claiming she ignored legal advice and blocked the transfer of people to hotels, accusations she denies .

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, Sir Roger Gale, the veteran Tory MP who described Manston’s situation as ‘a breach of human conditions’, said: ‘We are now almost back to where we need to be with the Manston Processing Center operating efficiently.”

He asked Robert Jenrick, the Immigration Minister, for assurances that “Manston is a processing center and not a shelter”.

Mr Jenrick said the numbers had now fallen to less than 1,600 and it was not “the Government’s intention for Manston to be turned into a permanent site for migrant accommodation”.

He said: “The population is now back to an acceptable level and that is a huge achievement. It is essential that it stays that way and he is right to say that the challenge is far from over…we must be aware of this and plan appropriately.”

During the debate, Lee Anderson, a Tory MP from Nottinghamshire, said the search for accommodation for “illegal immigrants” left a “bitter taste” in his throat.

‘I have 5,000 people in Ashfield who want to get social housing and they can’t get one. Yet again we are debating this nonsense,’ he said.

“The blame lies with this place right now – when are we going to go back and do the right thing and send them straight back the same day?”

Mr Jenrick said the government ‘should be guided both by our common desire for decency because those are our values, but also by stubborn common sense’.

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