British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to offer 45 million pounds (61 million dollars) to French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday to help France fight illegal migration in coastal towns along the English Channel.
The funding will pay for fencing, video surveillance and “detection technology” in Calais and nearby French ports and help fund the relocation of migrants to “prevent another refugee camp from forming,” a British government spokesperson said in a Downing Street statement ahead of Macron’s arrival.
May and Macron met on Thursday as part of a biennial summit that will focus on security, migration, foreign policy, trade and post-Brexit relations.
The two leaders held a private “working lunch” at a pub in May’s parliamentary constituency of Maidenhead, west of London, Macron said on Twitter.
They then travelled to the nearby Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, where Macron was welcomed by a military parade before the summit.
The handling of thousands of migrants – mainly from Middle Eastern and African nations – has been a contentious issue between the two countries for several years, particularly after the creation of the former “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais.
Improvements to security in 2015 and the closure of the main camp in 2016 helped reduce the number of recorded attempts to enter Britain illegally from more than 80,000 in 2015 to about 30,000 last year, Britain said.
“This is about investing in and enhancing the security of the UK border,” a government spokesperson said.
“Just as we invest in our borders around the rest of the UK, it is only right that we constantly monitor whether there is more we can be doing at the UK border controls in France and Belgium to ensure they are as secure as possible.”
May and Macron are expected to announce a package of agreements for Britain to help France on terrorism and other “shared threats,” humanitarian aid in Africa, and French troops joining a British military deployment in Estonia, May’s office said.
Previous bilateral summits have focussed on defence and security, foreign policy and nuclear energy, but Thursday’s 35th summit will be “broadened to cover the full spectrum of the UK-France bilateral relationship including prosperity, innovation, science and education,” it said.
“Today’s summit will underline that we remain committed to defending our people and upholding our values as liberal democracies in the face of any threat, whether at home or abroad,” May said ahead of the talks.
Britain is preparing to leave the European Union but “this does not mean that [it] is leaving Europe,” she said.
In Paris, sources at the Elysee Palace said May and Macron will also announce a “new form of cooperation that will complement the Le Touquet agreement,” which covers border controls across the English Channel between north-western France and south-eastern Britain.
“The purpose of the new treaty is a profound change to speed up the asylum procedure for persons who are in a position to request [asylum], and likely to be accepted in the United Kingdom for family reasons, and unaccompanied minors,” the sources said.
Macron is also expected to announce the possible loan of the 950-year-old Bayeux Tapestry to Britain under a programme of exchanges of artworks between the two nations.
Bilateral trade is valued at some 71 billion pounds, making France Britain’s third-largest trading partner, the British government said.