British Prime Minister Theresa May and France’s President Francois Hollande have reached a “very clear” agreement to keep border controls between the two countries in Calais, on the French side of the Channel.
During the run-up to the referendum on British membership of the European Union voters were warned that leaving the EU would cause the border to be moved to Dover, on the English side of the Channel, potentially creating mass migrant camps in the South of England akin to those outside Calais.
But at a joint press conference in Paris on Thursday evening, Mrs May and Mr Hollande announced that there were no plans to change the current agreement which places border controls in France.
“We are both very clear that the agreement should stay,” Mrs May said.
Mr Hollande meanwhile said that the agreement was necessary as the UK is not within Europe’s Schengen borderless zone, the Telegraph has reported.
He said the agreement as it stood was therefore useful to both countries as it allowed the two administrations to work together to stop migrants making their way to Calais, as they are prevented from crossing the Channel.
Without the agreement in place, he hinted, more migrants would be drawn to France in order to make the onward journey to the UK.
“We consider it as our duty … to apply it and also to improve it” he said.
Meeting with Mr Hollande during her first trip abroad as Prime Minister, which also featured a meeting with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the pair revealed that they had had discussions over other possible implications of Brexit.
On the status of British citizens living and working in France, Mr Hollande said they can stay “as long as they like”, adding that he expects a reciprocal agreement for French citizens in the UK.
And the two leaders agreed to work more closely on security and anti-terror measures, particularly in the wake of the most recent Islamic terrorist attack in Nice during Bastille Day celebrations.
But Mr Hollande called on Mrs May to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sparks the two-year process to leave the EU, as soon as possible, saying “There cannot be discussions or pre-negotiations before the negotiation” as “uncertainty is the greatest danger” for the EU.
Mrs May has previously said that Article 50 would not be invoked until the end of this year at the earliest, a stance she repeated, saying: “I hope that we can all make the most of the next six months to prepare for these discussions in a constructive way.”