The Ultra-Conservative Option: Tory MP Suggests ‘Taking Back’ Calais to End Channel Crisis

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Conservative politician Sir Edward Leigh jokingly suggested that Britain should “take back” Calais, last controlled by England in 1558, from France, to end the ongoing Channel migrant crisis.

Sir Edward, the chairman of the influential Public Account Committee in Parliament and a veteran MP,  tweeted: “Problem with cross-Channel migrants? We should never have lost Calais in 1588. Why not take it back?”

Perhaps anticipating an overexcited response from Britain’s liberal left, which is prone to interpreting such remarks literally in order to manufacture outrage, he quickly added: “On second thoughts, cheaper to pay the French a few million to stop [the migrants] on the beaches.”

This was likely in references to France’s demands for £30 million in exchange for stepping up their patrols — demands which are not uncontroversial, given the French often simply escort migrant boats into British waters when they encounter them, and the fact that the British have already handed them tens of millions to increase border security.

Sir Edward’s remarks come at a sensitive time, however, as the Mayor of Calais has suggested proposals for the Royal Navy to begin turning back the migrant boats in the English Channel amounts to a declaration of  “maritime war” on France.

England was embroiled in France’s internal affairs for centuries after its conquest by William the Conqueror and the Viking-descended Normans in 1066.

The Dukes of Normandy, site of the D-Day landings during the Second World War, were frequently in conflict with their French kings, with England being dragged into those conflicts after they became its rulers in their own right.

English kings eventually came to control swathes of territory throughout France, with Edward III claiming the country’s crown in the 1320s, and his successor Henry VI became its de facto ruler a century later.

By the 1450s, however, the English had been driven from all their French territories except the Pale of Calais, which was held by another eight English rulers in succession and had representation in the English parliament until 1588, when it was overwhelmed by Henry II of France in a series of sieges.

The monarchs of England and, after James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne, Great Britain, continued to claim the kingship of France until 1802, when Britain signed the Treaty of Amiens with Napoleon Bonaparte, then French First Consul, relinquishing the claim and recognising the French republic.

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