France and Britain reach an agreement on migration paving the way for a new understanding

  • UK to pay France to fix small boat problem
  • UK PM eyes reset after years of post-Brexit disputes
  • Macron declares “time for a new beginning”

PARIS, March 10 (Reuters) – Britain will pay France around 480 million pounds ($577 million) over three years to try to stop migrants traveling in small boats across the English Channel as two allies took a major step on Friday to end years of feuding. in the post-Brexit era.

At a summit meant to rekindle ties, French President Emmanuel Macron greeted British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with mutual smiles and slaps before they agreed to work closer together.

Describing it as a “moment of reconnection”, Macron told a joint press conference that relations had been strained by Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Sunak said the time had come for a new relationship, a “renewed understanding”, a reference to the early 20th century Entente Cordiale which smoothed diplomatic relations between European powers.

“If we are honest, the relationship between our two countries has seen challenges in recent years,” Sunak said. “Today we have taken cooperation to an unprecedented level.”

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Both parties agreed to advance cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, reaffirmed their support for Ukraine and pledged to enhance the interoperability of their military forces, including through the development of future missiles and systems air defense.

But for Sunak, migration was front and center as he seeks to tout the deal as another achievement after agreeing new terms with Brussels over Northern Ireland in February.

In post since October, he has made stopping small boats a priority after the number of migrants arriving on England’s south coast soared to more than 45,000 last year, up 500% in over the past two years.

He has proposed new legislation to ban those arriving in small boats from seeking asylum, but for that he needs the cooperation of France to intercept the boats and break the human smuggling networks behind them. the flow of arrivals from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and others.

Under the new deal, Britain will help fund a detention center in France while Paris will deploy more French personnel and improved technology to patrol its beaches. Officers from both countries will also seek to work with countries along the routes favored by human traffickers.

A British official said London was contributing 30 million euros over three years for the detention centre, with the official adding that detained migrants would be returned to their home country if it is safe, or to the last country through which they have transited if their country of origin is dangerous.


“We will develop operational needs and strengthen coordination,” Macron said, while adding that going further and addressing the issue of whether migrants could be sent back to France would require an agreement across the bloc.

While the number of asylum applications in the UK hit a 20-year high of nearly 75,000 in 2022, it remains below the European Union average. And many EU members themselves disagree about how to handle migrants and whether they should be sent back to the first EU country they arrived in.

The meeting was the first summit of Europe’s two largest military and nuclear powers – both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – in five years.

Ties between the two counties were strained by Brexit and were particularly difficult during the terms of Prime Minister of Britain Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, Truss at one point refused to say whether Macron was “friend or foe “.

Sunak and Macron struck up a personal relationship at the COP27 summit in Egypt in November when they first met face-to-face, two weeks after Sunak became prime minister, with their warm relationship labeled “The Bromance” in British newspapers.

The two former investment bankers, who gifted each other rugby shirts ahead of a decisive Six Nations match in London on Saturday, were joined by seven ministers from each side in Paris and met with business leaders from both countries to deepen their economic relations.

British energy supplier Octopus Energy said after the summit it would invest 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in France’s green energy market over the next two years, while countries signed two energy partnerships, emphasizing nuclear energy as a safe source of low-carbon energy. energy.

“France and the UK are working together so that never again can people like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin militarize our energy security,” Sunak said.

With the ongoing war in Ukraine, it was also an opportunity for two of kyiv’s biggest supporters to reaffirm their support.

The two leaders underlined that it was imperative for the time being to step up military support for Ukraine and to train its forces to give it an advantage on the battlefield and put it in the best position for the day when talks to end the war will begin.

“The priority is military,” Macron said.

($1 = 0.8322 pounds)

(This story has been corrected to say “early 20th century” instead of “early 19th century” in paragraph 4)

Additional reporting by William James, Muvija M, Sarah Young, Andrew MacAskill; written by John Irish and Kate Holton; Editing by Alison Williams, Angus MacSwan, Christina Fincher, James Davey, Raissa Kasolowsky and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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