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UK-France deal on tackling Channel crossings 'in final stages'

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met for the first time with President Macron at COP27. The plan could involve a 'joint control centre' operating patrols and drones 

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that he hopes his government can ‘cooperate closely’ with France on illegal immigration, having met with President Emmanuel Macron yesterday Pic: ComposedPix / photocosmos1 / Shutterstock

[Article updated on November 8 at 12:45 with further details on the proposed deal.]

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that he hopes that his country and France can “cooperate closely” with each other on issues surrounding immigration, as a plan on tackling small boat crossings reportedly nears completion. 

Mr Sunak met with President Emmanuel Macron for the first time at the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt yesterday (November 7). 

Mr Sunak said: “It was great to meet with President Macron to speak not only about the fight against illegal immigration but also about other matters in which we want to cooperate closely with the French.” 

Mr Sunak also said that he was leaving the COP27 summit with "renewed confidence and optimism" and that by working with the French "we can make a difference, grip this challenge of illegal migration and stop people coming illegally." 

The two leaders had already agreed during a phone conversation at the end of October that they would work more closely together on the subject of immigration, as the number of people having made the Channel crossing in small boats since the beginning of the year nears a record 40,000. 

Mr Sunak added that the issue is a “complex problem” which “will not be resolved in one evening”. 

However, an announcement on the results of cross-Channel talks is expected in the coming weeks. A government spokesperson said that a deal between the UK and France “has been discussed and is in its final stages”. 

It is thought that this plan could involve Border Force and immigration intelligence officers joining French police patrols as "observers"in order to help double the number of people who are prevented from leaving France in small boats from the current proportion of 42%. 

A "joint control centre" operating patrols, drones and satellites could also be established, The Telegraph reports. The deal is expected to see the UK invest tens of millions of pounds. 

“I think that there is an opportunity to be seized to work together, not only with France but also with other countries,” Mr Sunak said.

The Élysée Palace simply said Mr Sunak and Mr Macron would “remain in contact to make progress on coordination between the two countries in the face of illegal immigration.” 

Mr Macron has invited Mr Sunak to attend a conference in Paris on the situation in Ukraine on December 13. 

Mr Sunak became prime minister on October 25, after his predecessor Liz Truss resigned on October 20. 

Since he took office, his government has come under pressure with regards to the living conditions inside the migrant detention centre in Manston (Kent), and over the weekend, a group of detainees armed with weapons at the Harmondsworth centre near Heathrow caused a “disturbance” which led to a power outage. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer has called on Mr Sunak to “get a grip” and fix his government’s “broken” asylum system at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions. 

He also said that the prime minister should get a “proper home secretary” to replace Suella Braverman, although Mr Sunak insisted that she is taking “significant steps” in response to the problem. 

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