The UK government has agreed to contribute an additional £44.5m (~€50.4m) to strengthen border security at the port of Calais, France.
The agreement was one of a number made during a summit between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron. The meeting was held to discuss Anglo-French efforts to enforce border security during a period of increased migratory flow in Europe.
This will mark Emmanuel Macron’s first visit to the UK as president. Earlier this week Macron visited the former site of the Calais migrant camp – which formed during the migrant crisis and was dismantled in 2016 – to insist it would not be allowed to return. Despite this, some 700 migrants are thought to still be in the area.
What has the UK agreed to?
The commitments made by the two countries include:
- The UK will contribute £44.5m additional funding to Calais security;
- France will send troops to support the UK on Estonia’s border with Russia;
- The UK will send three RAF Chinook helicopters to Mali; and
- France will loan the Bayeux Tapestry for display in the UK.
The additional funding will be spent on security infrastructure in Calais and other border points. This will include increased CCTV presence, infrared detection devices and fencing.
Britain and France are eager to demonstrate that they will still be committed to a close cross-Channel relationship following Brexit. These commitments to support each other’s military efforts and recognise shared history represent a step towards this.
What has the government said?
In advance of the summit, May expressed optimism about Anglo-French relations: “Today’s summit will underline that we remain committed to defending our people and upholding our values as liberal democracies in the face of any threat, whether at home or abroad. But our friendship has always gone far beyond defence and security and the scope of today’s discussions represents its broad and unique nature.”
The extra funding was criticised by some, who view France as being responsible for dealing with the migrants who are there. However, a government spokesperson insisted to the BBC that border security is the most important concern: “Just as we invest in our borders around the rest of the UK, it is only right that we constantly monitor whether there is more we can be doing at the UK border controls in France and Belgium to ensure they are as secure as possible”.
In support of increased security co-operation, there will also be a summit between the heads of all five UK and French spy agencies. They will discuss recent terror attacks conducted around Europe, and their open door policy – through which French intelligence agents are able to visit MI5 headquarters and British officers are able to visit the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure, France’s equivalent.