Theresa May’s office has strongly rejected the suggestion from French presidential candidate Alain Juppé that the border for migrants could be moved from Calais to the southeast coast of England.
Juppé, the current favourite to succeed current presiden François Hollande, said he wanted a total revision of the Le Touquet treaty, the bilateral agreement which means border checks take place on the French side of the channel.
This would involve the border being pushed back to Kent on the southeast coast of England, meaning migrants traveling across Europe could cross the channel from France to the UK with much more ease.
“We can’t tolerate what is going on in Calais, the image is disastrous for our country and there are also extremely serious economic and security consequences for the people of Calais,” the presidential hopeful said this week.
“So the first thing is to denounce the Le Touquet accords. We cannot accept making the selection on French territory of people that Britain does or doesn’t want. It’s up to Britain to do that job.”
However, Downing Street has dismissed the notion of the Le Touquet agreement being torn up. A source close to the Tory prime minister told the Guardian that May expects France to continue the agreement, no matter who is leader.
A Downing Street source said: “This is a longstanding bilateral agreement that works for both sides. We would expect to see it continue.”
Juppé, a centre-right politician who is currently the mayor of Bordeaux, doesn’t seem to be deterred by the UK government’s staunch opposition to the suggestion, though. Asked again whether he believed the location of the border should be moved across the channel, he said: “Of course. Don’t tell me that it’s difficult because the British don’t want it.”
There are those in the French government who are opposing Juppé’s suggestion, too, the Guardian reports. Senior officials have warned that moving the border to Kent would only encourage more migrants to travel to France.
The notion of relocating the border checks to the UK would be extremely unpopular with most Brits. Reducing immigration to the UK was the most important concern for people who voted Leave in the EU referendum and May has promised to prioritise curbing immigration in upcoming Brexit negotiations.