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If France won’t take back the boats, don’t pay them a cent of that £54m, Priti Patel

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SO Priti Patel has pledged to turn back the boats of migrants crossing the English Channel and send them back to France.

I welcome the Home Secretary’s tough stance.

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Priti Patel has pledged to turn back the boats of migrants crossing the English Channel and send them back to France[/caption]

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This week more than 1,250 migrants have crossed to Britain in dinghies[/caption]

But I fear that, given the behaviour of France, the new plan is unlikely to succeed.

The only way that turning around the dinghies in British waters will work is if the French agree to take the occupants back to their shores.

And with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders, our neighbours show no signs of allowing that.

You only have to look at the ramshackle nature of the boats that attempt the crossing to see why the idea of sending them back will be almost impossible to implement.

They are so flimsy — even the bigger boats the smugglers have been using recently are incredibly unsafe.

If a Border Force boat comes alongside them at speed, they most will capsize.


Then, like any boat in distress in British waters, we are obliged to rescue them.

If migrants end up in the water there could be fatalities — and the Home Office will be blamed for the deaths.

So what is the plan to stop the boats?

Fire blank rounds over the bows of migrant dinghies? Or turn the hoses on them?

Of course, that is not going to happen.

Or does the Border Force try to throw a line on board and tow them back to France — and puncture them in the process?

LIMITED POWERS

Without French agreement to offer safe passage for the migrants back to Calais, the turn-around plans are unlikely to work.

Priti Patel is in a difficult situation because she has limited power to solve this crisis.

France, whose patrol craft regularly chaperone migrant boats into UK waters, appears to hold all the cards.

But there is one area that Britain does have sway.

In July the Home Secretary agreed a £54million handout to the French to double patrols and beef up security and technology to tackle the people smugglers.

That is on top of the £27million the Government gave France last year.

Yet despite this the English Channel chaos has only got worse.

I believe the Home Secretary did the right thing when she threatened to pull the plug on the latest tranche of British cash.

Why are our taxpayers subsidising French failures?

It certainly rattled the French, who bleated that they were being “blackmailed”.

Gerald Darmanin, the French interior minister, tweeted yesterday: “France will not accept any practices that are contrary to maritime law, nor any financial blackmail.”

This week more than 1,250 migrants have crossed to Britain in dinghies.

If they are paying around £4,000 each it’s a huge windfall for the people smugglers.

That’s £5million for a few clapped-out dinghies and some petrol.

FLOURISHING CRIMINAL TRADE

No wonder it is a flourishing criminal trade.

The problem remains that the French aren’t doing a good enough job of preventing the boats leaving their shores in the first place, despite all the extra money and resources doled out by Britain.

And they are doing a completely lousy job of intercepting the boats when they are in the water, even though the migrants need rescuing from the outset because they are in danger.

Until they intercept the boats, or allow our Border Force to pick them up and repatriate them to Calais, this problem will continue.

It means migrants staying in unsanitary camps along the French coastline as they wait for passage to the UK.

So the French are now dumping their problem on us.

The migrants attempting the Channel crossing are coming from a safe country.

Many are economic migrants, while others have been turned down after claiming asylum in France and other European countries.

They are undermining the prospects of those genuinely fleeing danger.

Britain, rightly, has a good record of taking in genuine refugees.

Many of those coming from France are attempting to jump the asylum queue ahead of those fleeing war zones.

RISEN HUGELY

The French are now saying they are detecting twice as many boats before they get into the water — which is good — but the numbers of boats attempting the crossing has risen hugely.

The problem is that if they do find them — say 40 migrants near a beach, a suspected people smuggler and a boat — what do they do?

They will only apprehend the people smuggler if they can identify him and have clear evidence to suggest he is committing a crime.

They may confiscate the boat, but the migrants and the smuggler — if police cannot pin anything on him — go free.

So the next night they will just get another boat and try again.

Once at sea, these boats are often effectively accompanied by French border vessels as they pass through their territorial waters into Britain’s jurisdiction.

So, like many in my south coast constituency of East Worthing and Shoreham, you might ask: Why are we sending millions to their coffers?

That’s why I believe the Home Secretary is right to talk tough to the French.

Her plans to turn back boats will only work with French cooperation.

We have shown the French the colour of our money.

Now we must tear up the £54million cheque unless they produce the results to warrant the handout.

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A migrant leaps onto the beach after an RNLI rescue[/caption]

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Tim Loughton is Tory MP for East Worthing & Shoreham and Member of Home Affairs Select Committee[/caption]

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