Opinion: Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron are locked in a post-Brexit duel

The International Organization for Migration mentioned the tragedy marked the only greatest recognized lack of life on the busy waterway because it started accumulating knowledge in 2014. And an editorial cartoon in The Times of London depicted migrants packed into a boat in the form of a coffin, vividly underscoring the dangers folks take in in search of a higher life.
The tragedy set off yet one more spat between the UK and France, two international locations whose relations have develop into more and more frayed in the aftermath of Brexit. On Thursday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, proposing, amongst different issues, an settlement to “allow all illegal migrants who cross the Channel to be returned” — a suggestion the French have beforehand rejected.
A French authorities spokesman mentioned the letter was “both poor in content and completely inappropriate in its form,” whereas France’s inside minister introduced Britain’s dwelling secretary was not invited to a assembly in Calais on Sunday to debate learn how to cease the crossings and trafficking syndicates.
Britain and France escalate war of words after dozens drown in Channel tragedy
In response to rising stress to make a more forceful intervention, France mentioned that it might enhance surveillance of its northern shores. However, SKY News broadcast video on Thursday apparently exhibiting French police trying on as a group of individuals ready to enter the channel’s harmful waters.

Playing politics

Sadly, the political state of affairs on either side of the channel might make for front-page headlines however creates little area for impactful problem-solving.

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For Johnson, a former journalist who’s a grasp at political spin, the optics of standing as much as the French and pushing again towards asylum-seekers might be useful for a authorities that campaigned on taking again management and sovereignty from the European Union. But it may be tough to make a convincing case that Brexit improved issues of sovereignty and border management when there have been much more channel crossings in 2021 up to now in comparison with the identical interval in the final two years.
Meanwhile, the anti-immigration rhetoric of Brexit campaigners like Nigel Farage ignores knowledge which point out a determined want for elevated migration in the UK, with labor shortages throughout a number of sectors and greater than a million job vacancies between July and September — the best ranges since 2001.
And for Macron, who faces re-election subsequent 12 months, pushing again towards an ally that voluntarily left the EU and helped upend France’s submarine take care of Australia creates helpful fodder for political achieve — particularly throughout an ongoing dispute over French fishing licenses. He can’t be seen because the weak underdog right here, with right-wing presidential candidate Eric Zemmour already seizing on the problem to make use of it towards Macron.
French fishermen threaten to block Channel Tunnel, ports in protest over fishing licenses

“The bilateral tensions you see are more or less the aftermath of Brexit,” French political commentator Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet advised me. “And the refugees are the main victims.”

Prior to Brexit, the UK might ship migrants to different international locations beneath the Dublin Regulation that asserted a particular person’s asylum declare can be transferred to the primary EU member state she or he entered.

Now that the UK has left the EU, nevertheless, the regulation not applies. Both Johnson and Macron now need to appear like they got here out on high after Brexit, all whereas avoiding being introduced down by the third rail problem of immigration at dwelling.

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Crushing the smugglers

Even at one of the best of occasions, the French and British response seems to be little greater than an novice cat-and-mouse recreation with the human traffickers.

Canadian investigative journalist Victor Malarek, who has written extensively about world human trafficking, mentioned France and the UK must not solely bury their variations but in addition undertake more artistic techniques like going undercover or infiltrating gangs to crush the smuggling syndicates, which are rising more subtle.

Malarek mentioned more sources needs to be allotted to combat smuggling. “And when you catch smugglers you have to bring the hammer down on them,” he advised me, including that the traffickers concerned in the crossing on Wednesday needs to be held accountable for the 27 migrants who died.

On the constructive facet, the disaster has generated new dialogue on learn how to tackle the so-called push components that encourage folks to flee determined circumstances. More frequent and intense local weather occasions and conflicts will solely place more folks in the smugglers’ harmful networks.

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“The reality is that desperate people will do desperate things,” Malarek mentioned.

France and the UK are allies and they have to resolve this complicated disaster in a manner that’s mutually acceptable and respects worldwide humanitarian legislation and refugee accords. “The main problem is neither the British nor the French are willing to concede anything,” Moreau-Chevrolet advised me. A serious threat for Johnson can be if the French launch hundreds of refugees in direction of UK waters, because the Cubans did in the Nineteen Eighties and as Belarus is doing now, Moreau-Chevrolet mentioned.
With France already taking in more migrants a 12 months than the UK, Johnson ought to provide more sources and more cash than the $72 million it is at the moment sending to assist police the French coast if he desires to stem the movement of migration. Either manner, the best choice for each Johnson and Macron can be to work collectively as a substitute of buying and selling barbs throughout a stretch of water that’s turning into a graveyard for too lots of the world’s most weak folks.
Failing to take action might put Macron and Johnson in an unenviable place not dissimilar to what’s enjoying out between Poland and Belarus, the place the leaders of each international locations are casting blame and making an attempt to capitalize on the state of affairs for what appears to be their very own political achieve, regardless of the implications.

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