French presidential frontrunner Marine Le Pen has denounced threats by Emmanuel Macron and others to get rid of British border checks in Calais, calling for strong French borders instead.
Ms. Le Pen’s main rival for the French presidency, the centre-left former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, has called repeatedly for the scrapping of the current “juxtaposed controls” arrangement, which allows British immigration to conduct checks in France and French immigration officials to conduct checks in the UK.
“The day [Britain’s EU membership] unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais,” he threatened prior to the Brexit referendum, despite the Le Toquet treatment which governs the existing system having nothing to do with the European Union.
He reiterated this claim just days after the British public voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016.
In a wide-ranging LBC interview with Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage, however, Ms. Le Pen said the solution to the migrant crisis in France is proper French border controls, not attempting to funnel migrants onwards to the United Kingdom.
“We’ve had French minister after French minister say that if Britain leaves the European Union, the British border at Calais goes back to Dover,” said Farage. “Do you have a view on that issue?”
“Well, they do not seem to have a very humanistic vision,” replied Ms. Le Pen. “What do they want? More and more deaths on the shores of our country; on the shores of Britain? Changing Calais into Lampedusa?”
“France must control its own borders. We should stop having people making it all the way to Calais … If we leave everything open we are setting the conditions to have more and more migrants who will once again build this terrible Jungle in Calais, because Calais is the last border before Britain.
“Some people say that the UK should open up its borders to avoid any problems; I say that France has to control its borders to avoid having [the Jungle] again.”
Macron, who was an investment banker before going into politics, appeared to climb down from his threats in February 2017, telling reporters: “I reaffirmed my willingness first to have a fair execution of the Le Touquet agreement and to see what we can improve, because we have to improve some issues,” following a meeting with Theresa May.
However, the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, and the president of the Hauts-de-France region, Xavier Bertrand, have both been pressing for the Le Toquet treaty to be torn up, possibly as a vote-winning pose.
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve determined that opening the border “would send a signal to people-smugglers and would lead migrants to flow [into France] in far greater numbers” during his time as interior minister, and concluded that “a humanitarian disaster would ensue”.
It would also be unlikely to alleviate pressures on France as the UK would still not allow migrants through, recreating the old Sangatte bottleneck.