Channel crossings deal could see Border Force officers in French control rooms

British immigration officers could be stationed in French control rooms for the first time under a new deal to curb Channel crossings.

The Government said the fresh agreement between the UK and France, understood to be worth about £80 million, is in its final stages.

This is expected to allow Border Force officers to observe French operations co-ordinating beach searches for boats being launched into the Channel and hunts for people trafficking gangs.

The money – which the Daily Mail described as the largest sum ever handed by the UK taxpayer to France – will also pay for an increase in the 800 daily patrols that are currently carried out by French officers, as well as more surveillance equipment to detect boats before the enter the water, The Times reported.

Downing Street said no timeline had been set on the discussions but declined to comment on any details that could be contained in the deal.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “There are still discussions ongoing so I can’t get into that sort of speculation at this stage,” adding: “We will set out detail at the earliest opportunity.”

Rishi Sunak vowed to “grip this challenge of illegal migration” by working with European nations when he attended Cop27, adding that he had “renewed confidence and optimism”.

The Prime Minister and French president Emmanuel Macron embraced at the UN climate change conference in Egypt on Monday during their first face-to-face encounter since Mr Sunak entered Number 10.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
There have been concerns about overcrowding at the Manston processing centre in Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride hailed a “fundamental shift” in the tone of relations between Britain and France as officials thrashed out the final details of the deal.

He told Sky News: “The mood music seems to be good at the moment.

“My understanding is we’re in the final stages of what could be an agreement, which would be very good news.

“I think there has been a fundamental shift in the tone between ourselves and the French.”

Almost 40,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel so far this year. As yet there have been no crossings in November as bad weather continues, leaving the provisional total for 2022 to date still standing at 39,913.

It comes as a group of MPs who sit on the home affairs, women and equalities and human rights parliamentary committees visited the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent after concerns were raised about overcrowding.

The Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, who is chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said after the visit that while overcrowding had reduced and staff were making “valiant efforts” to improve conditions, “the crisis is not over”.

She called on Home Secretary Suella Braverman to end the crisis “once and for all” by tackling the backlog in asylum cases and establishing an “efficient and fair” system.”

There were now around 1,200 people at the site, which is back below the maximum capacity of 1,600, Ms Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

Shortly after the delegation left on Tuesday, a man who shouted “help” and claimed he had been at the site for 30 days was seen being pinned up against a fence and dragged away by security guards when he tried to speak to members of the press.

Earlier, an inquest heard the man suspected of firebombing another immigration facility last month died of asphyxiation. Andrew Leak was found dead at a nearby petrol station eight minutes after the terror attack at Western Jet Foil in Dover on October 30.

Meanwhile, Fenland District Council in Cambridgeshire became the latest in a string of local authorities taking legal action in a bid to stop the Government from using a hotel to house asylum seekers.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Ipswich Borough Council were due at the High Court on Tuesday.