Boris Johnson says Brexit will make it easier to stop migrants crossing Channel - but experts warn it’ll be more difficult

PUBLISHED: 10:30 11 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:24 11 August 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sanitises his hands. Photograph: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sanitises his hands. Photograph: Lucy Young/Evening Standard/PA Wire

Downing Street has said that Brexit will make it easier to tackle the issue of migrants trying to cross the English channel, but experts have warned it will be more difficult.

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The prime minister said it was currently “very, very difficult” to legally return people who arrive from France using small boats, with more than 4,000 people crossing to the UK this year so far.

He said that the UK needed to look at “the panoply of laws that an illegal immigrant has at his or her disposal that allow them to stay here”.

However, at present EU law - in the form of the Dublin regulation - puts the member state at which the asylum seeker first entered the EU as the one responsible, meaning many of those arriving in the UK will be returned to France and Germany.

Johnson’s official spokesman has insisted Brexit would make it easier to rewrite the laws to change how the UK deals with migrants.


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He said: “We are currently bound by the Dublin Regulations for returns and they are inflexible and rigid – for example, there is a time limit placed on returns, it’s something which can be abused by both migrants and their lawyers to frustrate the returns of those who have no right to be here.

“At the end of this year we will no longer be bound by the EU’s laws so can negotiate our own returns agreement.

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“The Home Office continue to look at all available options to tackle this issue.”

But despite claiming that UK will have “taken back control of our borders”, experts warn without the Dublin regulation it will make things more difficult.

Immigration barrister Colin Yeo, author of Welcome To Britain: Fixing Our Broken Immigration System, explained: “The Royal Navy cannot simply enter French waters without an agreement to return migrants crossing the Channel.

“The French authorities would need to agree to accept any returns and because of the variety of hard Brexit sought by the UK government, the current returns arrangement, called the Dublin regulation, is ending on 31 December 2020, with no sign of any replacement being negotiated. It will become harder to return migrants to France in 2021, not easier.”

He later tweeted: “As far as we can tell from this short thread, the UK government still has zero idea of how to negotiate a successor to the Dublin Regulation we have decided to leave because we opted for a hard Brexit. ‘Take back control’, they said. The reality is we’ve surrendered it.”

Former French foreign affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau tweeted Priti Patel to warn her that things would be made more difficult by Brexit.

She explained: “Mrs Home Secretary,you know that there is a strong French/British cooperation across the Channel. You also know we are talking about human lives and rescue, not only about boats and interception. As regards asylum seekers, you do know that Brexit means the UK is leaving Dublin regulation.”

Professor Elspeth Guild pointed out that with regards to Brexit “nowhere in the Political Declaration is there mentioned asylum, refugees or children.”

She explained: “The only provision about migration at all is paragraph 114 which simply states that the parties will cooperate to tackle illegal immigration, including its drivers and consequences, while recognising the need to protect the most vulnerable.”

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