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Boris Johnson proposed the measure in a letter sent to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, last night. He called for “joint or reciprocal maritime patrol operations in each other’s territorial waters.”
The tone of the letter, which demanded that France “take back” people who successfully complete the treacherous journey into Britain and was posted to Twitter, has sparked fury across the Channel.
It prompted Gerald Darmanin, the French interior minister to disinvite Priti Patel, the home secretary, from high-level talks in Paris on Sunday aimed at finding a consensus between several countries on how to stem the flow of people making.
Meanwhile, French President Macron has since accused the prime minister of failing to act “seriously” in the crisis and questioned his social media approach to diplomacy.
Channel crossings are a difficult problem to solve because of several different factors including maritime laws, geography and politics.
Ms Patel has authorised Border Force officials to use “push back” tactics, which means literally turning boats in the sea back to where they came from – i.e. France in this case.
But France has so far failed to cooperate. And as soon as vessels leave French waters, which UK authorities are not allowed to enter without first getting consent from Paris, they are subject to the protection of UK law, meaning they become London’s responsibility.
France’s UK-facing coast is extremely long and much of it remote, meaning it is financially and physically extremely difficult to police. As a result, French authorities will stop some boats but far more will get through.
Lastly, the politics. The simple truth is that neither Mr Johnson or Mr Macron wants more migrants in their respective countries, despite claims by the latter.
Mr Macron is up for reelection to the Elysee in April next year and is being outflanked on the right by presidential hopeful Eric Zemmour, the convicted far-right political commentator who uses his media platforms to promote an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant agenda.
Back at home, Mr Johnson and Ms Patel are also under severe pressure to reduce immigration having vowed to “take back control” post-Brexit.
Are joint patrols likely to help? Tell us what you think below.