Tory Brexiteer proposes ‘taking back Calais’ to deal with number of migrants crossing the English Channel

Edward Leigh, the Tory MP. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Edward Leigh, the Tory MP. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

A Tory MP has suggested that the UK government takes control of Calais from France to stop migrants crossing the English channel.

Long-standing Tory Brexiteer MP Edward Leigh made the claim on Twitter, suggesting that the English and French return to the border arrangements of the late 16th century.

Calais was under English rule for 200 years until it was lost to France in 1558 under Mary I.

He tweeted: 'Problem with cross-Channel migrants? We should never have lost Calais in 1588. Why not take it back?'

Leigh followed it up by writing: 'On second thoughts, cheaper to pay the French a few million to stop (the migrants) on the beaches.'

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His comments were seized on by Labour, including deputy leader of the opposition Angela Rayner.

She wrote: 'I often say some Tory MPs live in the past but 1558?'

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Andrew Gwynne MP replied: 'Why stop at Calais? After all Her Majesty is still Duke of Normandy. These Tories really should aim higher!'

'Is this a parody account?' questioned David Meadows. 'Because I can't believe a real Member of Parliament would advocate going to war with France.'

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Jason Edge responded: 'If he actually knew his history (or Wikipedia) he'd know under the Treaty of Troyes the French paid 120,000 crowns to the English for ownership of Calais. But we can't let facts get in the way of demonising migrants can we!!'

'I though the whole point of Brexit was to stop paying Europe and to take control of our own borders?' asked @TizRheaD.

'What a legacy to create for yourself with one tweet,' noted Prof Tanja Bueltmann.

More sensibly, Sebastian Cousins had another idea for the MP.

He replied: 'Or, you know, we could set up an asylum seeker processing centre in Calais so we can both help people who are trying to do the right thing for their families and stop dangerous Channel crossings. Hell, you even get a bit of Calais with a British flag on it. Just saying...'

The comments come as the mayor of Calais claimed that use of the Royal Navy by the British government was a 'declaration of maritime war'.

Natacha Bouchart told France 3: 'The British government should take care of its own responsibilities.

'I am waiting for Gerald Darmanin to make the British stop this vacuum and to push the British government to make decisions on its migration policy in its own territory.

'We in Calais no longer want to be permanent hostages enduring the lectures of British leaders.'

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