A Conservative MP has warned the UK’s new deal to help curb Channel crossings “falls short” after Home Secretary Suella Braverman acknowledged it “will not fix the problem”.
Natalie Elphicke said a small boat landed on a beach in a coastal village in her Dover constituency “as the ink was drying on this new deal”, as she pressed for more action rather than observation.
Ms Braverman, asked by Conservative MP Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) if the new agreement with France was a “game changer”, replied in the Commons: “On its own this agreement will not fix the problem, it’s important everyone is clear about that.
“But I am very proud of the co-operation that the UK and France have led over recent years. I do think this deal represents a step change and big step forward in our joint challenge.
“For the first time, under this new integrated approach, UK officers will join law enforcement colleagues in France as embedded observers to share real-time information relating to small boats.
“The deal will include significant investment in intelligence capability and information sharing that all agencies will use, including the National Crime Agency and Europol.”
Ms Braverman also said more than 30,000 crossing attempts have been stopped by the French this year, adding: “Joint working has also resulted in the dismantling of 55 organised crime groups and secured over 500 arrests since its inception in 2020.”
But Ms Elphicke said: “Regrettably, the modest French agreement falls short of what is needed to address the scale, the impact and the urgency of the Channel crossings.
“We don’t need more observation, we need action taken on the French side, for even today, as the ink was drying on this new deal, small boats crept through the sea mist and one even landed on a beach in a residential coastal village in my constituency.”
Ms Elphicke asked the Home Secretary to meet her and Kent leaders to discuss the “very dreadful impact on local services”, adding they have been described as “at breaking point”.
Ms Braverman replied: “I’m not going to overplay this agreement. It’s a very important step forward, I think it provides a very good platform from which deeper collaboration can be secured.”
She went on to reiterate the joint working, adding: “Is it going to solve the problem on its own? It won’t, but I do encourage everybody to support the deal we have secured.”
For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Ms Braverman was “preventing full scrutiny” on the deal by not delivering a full statement to the Commons.
Ms Cooper said: “Could it be because her written statement admits that there have only been 140 smuggling-related convictions across all of Britain and France in 35 months?
“Why is the Government’s action against criminal smuggler gangs so pitifully weak?”
Ms Braverman replied: “We introduced legislation, an extensive Bill designed specifically to deal with the problem that’s occurring on our shores and at every occasion. What did Labour do? They voted against it.
“If they were really serious about solving this problem, they would be supporting our proposals, not carping from the sidelines.”