Stopping the Small Boats

Last week was a big week for our Dover and Deal community. I welcomed the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to Dover where we met with the border team at Langdon Cliffs. We also saw the unveiling of a robust new Illegal Migration Bill, as well as the long-awaited French summit.

The French summit didn’t just provide a boost when it comes to stopping the small boats. There was positive news for our Port, hauliers and our seafarers, with a separate agreement between the French and UK Transport Secretaries to co-operate to ensure that traffic continues to flow smoothly through the Port in the years to come and work together to protect seafarers on the cross-Channel routes.

I have long said that bringing an end to the small boats crossings crisis is the compassionate and right thing to do. It is dangerous, lives have been lost and it is criminal activity. It undermines our national security and sovereignty. It makes it harder for us to do more for people in genuine need of a place of refuge. It puts an unquestionable strain on our resources as we grapple to house, feed and look after large unplanned numbers of small boat arrivals. Last year there were 45,000 such arrivals, this year as many as 90,000 are forecast unless more action is taken.

For me, stopping the boats has three parts – stopping the boats leaving France in the first place, a joint Channel security zone so boats are not brought into the UK – and that illegal entrants arriving on our shores should not be able to remain.

It has long been the case that if you get to the UK, you can pretty much stay in the UK. Tackling that pull factor is at the heart of the new Illegal Migration Bill. This new Bill will provide powers to detain and deport anyone who comes here illegally from a safe country, which France obviously is. There are limited exceptions for people who are medically ill and unaccompanied children. However, these are, and are intended to be, robust and clear lines in the sand.

The second big announcement was an eye-watering half a billion pounds of money to the French for them to stop boats on the French side. It’s a lot of money. That huge financial commitment from the UK now needs to be met by equally determined French action to stop the boats leaving France. Stopping the boats on the French side is the surest and quickest way to end the small boats crisis.

The developments of this past week have been really welcome in making progress to deal with the small boats and the continued smooth flow of trade and passengers between Britain and the continent. It’s encouraging to see greater co-operation with our French allies. Let’s hope it bears fruit.




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