France, UK hail progress on 'significant' deal over illegal migration

AFP , Friday 11 Nov 2022

The foreign ministers of Britain and France on Friday said significant progress was being made on an ambitious new deal to thwart illegal migration on small boats across the Channel.

Sunak - Macron
In this file photo Britain s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (L) talks with President of France, Emmanuel Macron, ahead of a bilateral meeting, at the COP27 summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. AP


"They welcomed progress made towards a significant new UK-France agreement and in this respect the conclusion of an ambitious package as soon as possible," both sides said in a joint statement after talks in Paris.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and British counterpart James Cleverly "stressed the urgency of tackling all forms of illegal migration including small boats crossings and addressing their root causes," it added.

No details of the nature of the agreement were disclosed in the statement.

The statement reflects a new atmosphere in ties between the France and the UK since British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took the helm, after years of acrimony under his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

Migration has been a particular bone of contention with London accusing Paris of not doing enough to stop migrants crossing the Channel, charges fiercely rejected by French officials.

Some 40,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats so far this year, with predictions that numbers could hit 50,000 or even 60,000 by the year-end.

Sunak and President Emmanuel Macron held a cordial first meeting this week on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Egypt.

The foreign ministers reaffirmed "the enduring and essential partnership between France and the United Kingdom" and a plan to hold a summit meeting in early 2023.

They vowed to provide Ukraine "with the political, military, humanitarian and economic support" it needs to combat the invasion by Russia.

They also condemned Iran's "violent repression of legitimate peaceful protests" and its support for Russia's war against Ukraine including through the sale of drones "used for indiscriminate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure."

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