Harsh words cross the Channel – as refugees remain desperate | Opinion


The relations between France and the United Kingdom have always been tortuous, but today the understanding seems very far from cordial. Relations between the two countries remain strong in terms of cooperation on international and defense issues, but the issue of asylum seekers crossing the Channel has generated little diplomatic comments.Interior Minister Priti Patel launched the latest cross-Channel salvo last week, telling MPs migrants viewed France as “racist”. Others have floundered to accuse France of looking the other way as desperate refugees in rubber dinghies attempted to reach the UK.

Threats to send the Royal Navy to send refugees back to France, in flagrant violation of international law, raised the verbal bar.

Sir Peter Ricketts, Ambassador to France between 2012 and 2016, understands the issues on both sides. While he believes the broader day-to-day relations between the two countries remain strong – especially on international issues, climate change and security – the increasingly angry rhetoric over Brexit and migrants do is not constructive.

London’s decibel level is proving to be very unnecessary. Some in Britain seem to forget that France also has politics and needs to think about how these problems are going to face French voters, ”Ricketts told the Observer. “That’s a real problem. Some Conservative MPs seem to be forgetting for the moment that bragging, slogans and inflammatory remarks in public will not work.

“The increase in migrant arrivals is difficult for British politicians to manage. They think that France could do more, but I myself know the efforts made by France, and I do not think that many Conservative MPs dealing with this have the slightest idea. They must tone down the rhetoric and come up with a practical package of measures that also benefit the French.

Ricketts believes that if Britain came up with a package that included not only money but also the acceptance of certain unaccompanied minors, a solution could be found: “There is no one-sided solution. This question is just as sensitive for France, ”he declared.

Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, said: “Priti Patel’s words do not help. To enforce the Dublin Regulation [which states migrants and refugees should seek asylum in the first EU nation they reach], we depend on the goodwill of the French. If there must be some sort of [post-Brexit] agreement on the Dublin regulation, we will need the cooperation of France. If you insult people it doesn’t help. I am a fan of old school diplomacy, but the UK government is unable to understand this due to a lack of expertise.

Philippe Marlière, who teaches political science at University College London, is from the region of Calais. “Relations between the two countries have become more and more polarized and have deteriorated over the years since Brexit, which has been a disaster for bilateral relations,” he said.


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