A Conservative MP has urged the government to cut all ties with the EU by the end of the year amid “unacceptable” migrant crossings across the English Channel.
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt claimed the UK’s close links to the EU under the Brexit “transition period” are making the return of illegal immigrants more difficult, as he urged the government not to extend the agreement.
Since March, more than 1,000 migrants have reportedly crossed to the UK.
During one day last week, 166 migrants reached the UK on small boats – a record for the number arriving on a single day.
The total for this year is already estimated to have exceeded the number who reached the UK in the whole of 2019.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Tory backbencher Hunt said: “We have recently seen an unacceptable increase in the number of illegal migrants entering this country through unauthorised crossings across the English Channel.”
He claimed “being tied to EU rules and regulations during the transition period makes the return of illegal migrants more difficult, and this underlines one of the important reasons why we need to end the transition period on 31 December”.
He called for Penny Mordaunt, answering questions about the UK’s “future relationship” negotiations with the EU, to assure the government will “rebuff any EU attempt to make a new deal on illegal immigration contingent on us conceding in other areas of negotiations”.
Mordaunt, the paymaster general, said: “This is an appalling and dangerous trade in human beings and all nations have an obligation to combat it.
“Britain has chosen to do that… in large amounts of funding upstream to create job security and food security, and alleviate the need for people to move away from their homes to seek a better life.
“We will always uphold our obligations, and our humanitarian obligations, and we want other countries to do the same.”
Read more: 'We can't go on like this forever': Michel Barnier says 'no progress' made in Brexit talks
The UK, after leaving the EU on 31 January, is currently in a transition period in which the two sides have until 31 December to agree their future relationship.
During the transition period, the UK effectively remains a member of the EU. It can be extended for up to two years, but Downing Street must give notice of this by 30 June.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, there have been calls for Number 10 to extend the transition period, with leaders primarily focused on the pandemic.
However, the government has repeatedly insisted it will not be seeking an extension.
Mordaunt added in the Commons on Tuesday that an extension would be “crazy”.
On Friday, Michel Barnier accused the UK of “seeking to distance themselves” from a future relationship agreement.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said “there have been no significant areas of progress” as he warned: “I don’t think we can go on like this forever.”