The death of twenty-seven migrants off the coast of Calais at the end of November revived the debates around the Touquet agreements signed between France and the United Kingdom in 2003. The ambition of this treaty was to strengthen border controls and fight against the illegal immigration. But, almost twenty years later, what about the facts?
To help us understand, Sophie Loussouarn, specialist in the United Kingdom and lecturer at the University of Picardy first reviews the chronology of these agreements. The expert explains that this treaty “has been in force since 1erFebruary 2004 “and” ratifies that the United Kingdom and France must each control their borders in order to prevent illegal immigration “.
Sophie Loussouarn adds that these agreements have always been subject to potential reforms but that “Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron were keen to keep them as they are”. This even when the first tensions began to erupt between the two countries and more particularly from 2016 with Brexit, the British having voted to alleviate the massive influx of migrants, which more is after the migration crisis of 2015 which created a shock wave in Europe.
Because the current tensions between France and the United Kingdom arise from the fact that the migrants are stranded in Calais, that is to say on French territory, while the vast majority wish to reach England. According to Sophie Loussouarn, “the migrants want to reach London because they speak English and their families, for many, are already established there. They feel like foreigners in France. ”
In addition, the UK has 1.1 million unfilled jobs, prompting migrants to cross the Channel. The only problem is that the British government wants selected immigration and skilled workers. In 2021, there are 25,000 migrants in the United Kingdom. This is sixty thousand less than in Italy in the same year, and one hundred thousand less than in Greece.
Two visions of immigration
The lecturer at the University of Picardy explains that the tensions between the two countries are also based on their vision of immigration: “France, since 1974 – under the leadership of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing – has family reunification, while the United Kingdom – and in particular with the new law drafted by the current Home Secretary Priti Patel – has called into question family reunification. “
In summary, the two countries have radically different views on issues of nationality, nation and identity, which in effect creates friction on migration issues. They also do not have the same needs: “the United Kingdom wants workers to fill vacant positions while France is facing rising unemployment which has a cost in terms of public finances and therefore increases public debt. . “
Another important point, and not the least, the United Kingdom is subsidizing the French government to the tune of fifty million euros to monitor the beaches. Significant funding that rekindled tensions between the two countries after the tragedy of last November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticizing in particular the fact that the French police were removing the sleeping bags of migrants to the detriment of decent, humane care .
An article published by The Guardian newspaper even quantified the hatred between the two nations at 43%, a figure of the most worrying in view of the probable migratory crises to come. Because if this animosity persists, it could prevent Paris and London from agreeing on a subject as hot as immigration and thereby compromise the safeguard of the Touquet agreements.
A deep-rooted disagreement today
Sophie Loussouarn adds that “it will be very difficult to discuss these agreements calmly because the disagreement is too strong at the moment” and that before the French presidential election of 2022, “nothing will really change.” As for the British, Brexit has been very favorable to them. Indeed, if it harms relations between the two countries, “it also weakens the European Union because who says Brexit, says 15% less budget, or thirteen billion euros which are missing in the coffers. It also calls into question the influence of the EU in the world, which is problematic for France when we see the ferocious expansion of China and Russia, ”explains the specialist.
The British, by leaving the European Union, regained their sovereignty; they took over France. In addition, “the financial center of London is not weakened, it is a country which attracts because it has a stable political system and a flexible labor market which works. Its growth is strong and salaries, since July 2021, have increased, ”continues Sophie Loussouarn.
Ultimately, the Touquet agreements, although necessary, are therefore for the moment in standby as the British would say and it is they who have more control compared to France. It remains to be seen whether with the French presidential election, the two countries will be able, depending on the result, to agree again and agree on the policies to be carried out to protect their borders.