The European Commission has categorically ruled out signing a readmission deal with the UK government over the repatriation of illegal migrants who have entered Britain by crossing the English Channel, documents obtained by the Daily Mail confirm.
The decision is a major blow for the British government which is failing to stem the flow of disproportionately Albanian and Afghan migrants making their way to Britain through the sea route. Statistics show that 100,000 have crossed the Channel since 2018.
According to the leaked documents, Commission President von der Leyen’s head of cabinet Bjoern Seibert ruled out an EU-UK deal on returning migrants earlier this year during meetings with UK Cabinet officials. But Brussels has so far disputed the sequence of events outlined in the leaks, saying that Mr. Seibert never excluded the possibility of a new deal.
The Sunak government is scrambling to find alternative ways to deal with the worsening Channel crisis after legal challenges in the Court of Appeal and logistical issues derailed the Tory government’s original plan to deport failed asylum seekers to Rwanda, deemed to be safe by UK authorities.
The UK’s relationship with the EU regarding migration was complicated by Brexit and departure from the EU’s Dublin Agreement, which determines which member state accepts what migrants on the basis of their original point of entry into Europe.
Under the Dublin Agreement, the UK was able to return migrants to safe countries through which they had previously passed. The Sunak government was understood to be seeking a revised version of the deal in cooperation with France and other EU nations.
The EU’s non-compliant stance on negotiating a new readmission deal for migrants, while bad news for the UK, is good news for France, which had originally passed the buck to Brussels when asked to deal bilaterally with the UK to solve the Channel crisis. A previous 2020 UK-French deal to up the number of patrol boats to stop the flow came to naught, despite assurances by the then-UK Home Secretary Priti Patel that it would reduce numbers.
The Channel migrant crisis took its current form in late 2018 after enhanced border checks on lorries and other vehicles incentivised small boat crossings from French ports such as Calais with just under 46,000 largely male migrants making the crossing last year alone, according to Home Office statistics.
In response to the EU Commission’s refusal to broker an asylum deal, some Tory backbenchers are calling for the UK government to “take back full control of our legal sovereignty” and physically stop the influx through border protection.
Trailing in the polls behind a resurgent Labour Party, the ruling Conservative Party has taken the calculated decision to increase its rhetoric around immigrants in recent months, with Sunak tripling fines for those housing illegal immigrants earlier this month.
The dispute over Channel migrants is just a small part in a wider European drama over migration as the numbers making the perilous Mediterranean Sea journey into Europe spike and member states clash over the implementation of a new EU migration pact to establish a quota system for each country to accept.