Ludicrous claims about Calais are desperate and illogical

Responding to the claims by the French Economy Minister, Emmanuel Macron, that ‘migrants will no longer be in Calais’ if we Vote Leave, Matthew Elliott Chief Executive of Vote Leave, said:

“These ludicrous claims are simply not backed up by evidence, logic or French self-interest. Such a conveniently timed intervention smacks of desperation from the UK Government which has failed to renegotiate our relationship with the EU and is now failing to make a positive case for remaining in the EU. There’s no more chance of shifting the Calais camps to the UK than there is of a refugee camp springing up outside of Terminal 5 at Heathrow. If we Vote Leave we can take back control of our borders and spend our money on our priorities.”

Key points

  • The two treaties covering the UK border controls are bilateral deals that are not related to EU membership. If it is such a bad deal for France today, why would the French not rip it up tomorrow?
  • The Sangatte Protocol (signed in 1991) is integral to operation of the Channel Tunnel which the French Government has a commercial and economic interest in. Why would the French damage their interests?
  • The Le Toquet Treaty (signed in 2003) , which allows UK border controls at ferry ports, was a response to the camps that had already built up in France because of Shengen. The French benefit from UK funding and material support.
  • The French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, has said ending the agreement is ‘not a responsible solution… a foolhardy path, and one the government will not pursue.’
  • Despite all of this, if the French did defy logic and end the agreement, the UK’s ability to enforce carriers’ liability would mean commercial operators would still have to carry out checks. Suggestions that migrants could be allowed to ‘travel unchecked to the UK’ are therefore utterly spurious.  


Notes to Editors


1. A vote to leave the EU is not a vote to end juxtaposed border controls at Calais. UK immigration officers are stationed in France under the Sangatte Protocol of 25 November 1991 and the Le Toquet Treaty of 4 February 2003. These are bilateral agreements between the UK and France which are independent of the UK’s membership of the EU. They would continue in force after the UK voted to leave the EU.


2. It is not in the interests of the French Government to end the arrangement as the French Government have made clear.

The French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, has said: 'Calling for the border with the English to be opened is not a responsible solution. It would send a signal to people smugglers and would lead migrants to flow to Calais in far greater numbers. A humanitarian disaster would ensue. It is a foolhardy path, and one the government will not pursue' (Telegraph, 21 October 2015, link).

Under the terms of the Treaty, the French are also allowed to have border controls at Dover – scrapping the Treaty would mean less French control over people who can access France via the UK.


3. The Sangatte Protocol, which allows juxtaposed controls at the Channel Tunnel, cannot be ended by the French Government.

  • This protocol was an integral part of the 1986 Treaty of Canterbury which established the Channel Tunnel (Treaty of Canterbury, 12 February 1986, art. 4, link). The Sangatte Protocol contains no provision allowing the French Government to terminate it.
  • If the French Government chose to end juxtaposed controls at the Channel Tunnel, it would effectively close the Tunnel, which the French Government will not do.
  • The nationalised French railway company, SNCF, has a 55% stake in Eurostar (Eurostar, 2016, link). If juxtaposed border controls were ended, Eurostar’s commercial viability would be imperilled.


4. The French Government could end the Le Toquet Treaty, which allows juxtaposed border controls at sea ports, regardless of whether Britain is a member of the EU or not. Under article 25(2) of the Le Toquet Treaty, either party ‘may terminate it at any time by written notification’, which has effect two years later. France could therefore end juxtaposed border controls at sea ports while the UK remains in the EU.


5. The UK’s border controls at Calais are not the cause of the camps – the EU’s Schengen system is. Removing them would not cause the camps to shift to Dover. There are camps at Calais because migrants are trying to enter the UK and because the French Government has permitted them to live there. Many have travelled through a number of EU member states without passing a single border control because of the EU’s Schengen arrangements. The Sangatte camp, which opened in 1999 and closed in 2002, predated the current arrangements (BBC News, 13 April 2007, link). Camps of asylum seekers in southern England are only possible if a British Government chose to permit their existence, which seems highly unlikely. More to the point, it is not clear why migrants who have successfully entered the UK would choose to set up a camp in Kent rather than disappear into the black market.


6. Even without the juxtaposed controls, there are other methods by which the UK Government could ensure those without a right of residence in the UK could not enter.

  • Under section 40 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the owner of a ship who conveys a passenger into the UK needing leave to enter who lacks a valid visa is liable to a penalty of £2,000. This could be extended to Eurotunnel.
  • The Government also has the power to establish ‘authority to carry’ schemes under Part 4 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which require ferry and train operators to submit information to the Government on passengers before departure. Carriers who breach this scheme are liable to a penalty of £50,000.
  • It would not be in the commercial interests of train or ferry operators to allow illegal migrants to travel from France to the UK in the event the French Government did decide to terminate the Le Toquet arrangement.
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