British and French officials “continue to work together” on funding intended to stop migrants from crossing the Channel, the UK Home Office has said.
It comes after French interior minister Gerald Darmanin accused the UK of not holding up its end of a GBP54m deal reached by both countries in July, aimed at increasing patrols.
During a visit to Calais on Saturday to inspect efforts to tackle illegal immigration, Mr Darmanin was asked by Sky’s Europe correspondent Adam Parsons why so many boats were arriving in Britain despite the deal.
Mr Darmanin said: “First off, the British government has not paid, for now, what was promised.
“So, for the moment, there is not a euro that has been paid by the British government following the deal – more or less – that we negotiated with (Home Secretary Priti) Patel.
“The English are people of honour, so I am certain that it is an accounting delay.”
French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said France had not received the promised funding
A Home Office spokesman said: “French and UK officials continue to work together on the final funding arrangements, which form part of the bilateral agreement.
“We maintain regular contact with France on this work at an operational and policy level.
“This year record numbers of people have put their lives in the hands of ruthless people smugglers and risked perilous channel crossings from French beaches.
“Joint cooperation with the French has led to nearly 300 arrests, 65 convictions and prevented more than 13,500 crossings. But with hundreds still risking their lives and making the crossing, all sides must do more.”
Sky News filmed dozens of migrants leaving beaches last week on inflatable boats, and even a canoe – beginning the potentially dangerous journey unchallenged by French police officers.
But Mr Darmanin insisted French officials were doing their bit to stop the illegal arrivals, adding: “It has been more than 20 years since France has overseen the border for our British friends.
“We have succeeded in largely reducing the pressure from immigration. And what we see in Calais and Dunkirk now is nothing like what we saw five or six years ago.”
He said the French government had dismantled camps as well as increased the numbers of police and installed fortifications to protect the border.
He added: “We need Great Britain to reduce its economic attractiveness for migrants who want to work in the UK.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel told the Tory Party conference last week that France “is a safe country” and she would “turn back the boats”.
This did not stop more migrants successfully crossing the Channel on Saturday, with Border Force and RNLI vessels bringing them to safety in Dover and Dungeness in Kent.
Speaking to Sky News, UK In A Changing Europe economist Jonathan Portes said: “I think there clearly has been a deterioration in the UK-France relationship on this score, as well as in many other on many other fronts, whether that ranges from the submarine deal with Australia through to the issues with French fishermen who complained about being shut out of their historical fishing waters near the Channel Islands.
Migrant: French police watched and let us leave
“It’s difficult to know whether this is just one isolated incident or whether this reflects this broader deterioration in UK-French relations. Now, to the extent it’s the latter, that clearly is very damaging for the UK and for France.”
Alp Mehmet, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said the French police are not making any attempt to stop people from crossing the Channel.
He told Sky News: “They are not doing anything to challenge those coming into France at the point of entry. The EU is doing absolutely nothing to stop them from coming in.
“They are coming from a safe country [France] and that country is doing absolutely nothing to help them stay in that country.”
Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch UK has criticised the French authorities for not stopping migrants cross the Channel
French fisheries workers claim they have been “deceived” by the British government over fishing licence applications and have called on the European Commission to take “retaliatory measures”.
And France has again threatened to cut the UK off from energy supplies if the terms of the Brexit deal aren’t stuck to.
The country’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, said the agreement had to be “implemented fully” and – should it not be – then “we will take European or national measures to exert pressure on the UK”.