The press release issued by the Home Office on 1 February 2024.
The UK and France will go even further and faster in tackling illegal migration and build even closer law enforcement and security cooperation ties in 2024.
During talks in Paris on Tuesday (30 January), Home Secretary James Cleverly and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin discussed the breadth of their shared priorities, the enduring strength of the UK-France relationship and the opportunities for further deepening of cooperation.
This year marks the 120th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale, which brought a new age of UK-French relations.
The Home Secretary welcomed the excellent work from French law enforcement to reduce the number of small boats reaching the UK by 36% in 2023 compared to the previous year. He also welcomed the action to target ‘taxi-boat’ launches, including by constructing barriers and increasing patrols, where UK-France cooperation directly impacted organised criminal activity.
To go further in our response, the Home Secretary and Interior Minister Darmanin welcomed plans to accelerate delivery of the March 2023 UK-France Summit agreement. These plans will expedite deployment of key aerial surveillance equipment, ensuring unprecedented levels of coverage to enable French law enforcement to intercept crossing attempts as quickly as possible. The Home Secretary underlined that cross-Channel cooperation to save lives at sea remains an important priority.
The Home Secretary also endorsed both countries’ commitment to new UK-France cooperation focused on disruption of small boats materials’ supply through enhanced intelligence sharing.
As part of further pan-European efforts to tackle illegal migration, the ministers discussed convening a meeting of the Calais Group Interior Ministers in the spring to lead discussions with key near neighbour partners on further efforts to tackle illegal migration.
The Home Secretary committed to the UK continuing to share security experience and expertise to support France’s preparations for the Olympics.
Home Secretary James Cleverly said:
The UK and France are friends, neighbours and partners. Our cooperation against the full range of security threats and challenges is vital for both our countries and for Europe.
France is an essential partner to prevent illegal migration. The UK continues to support the challenges faced by French law enforcement, operating under increasingly difficult circumstances to save lives and disrupt organised criminal gangs. Their commitment is exemplary, and the results are impressive.
I want to thank my friend Gérald Darmanin for his continued leadership and support in tackling the small boat crisis and pledge to see our countries continue to work closely together, not least as France takes on the challenge of hosting the Olympics this summer.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said:
In the follow-up of 2023, France and the UK will deepen their cooperation, which is essential in the very intense fight against violent and reckless smugglers’ networks.
They will also continue calling for a UK-EU agreement on migration issues so as to better manage illegal as well as legal migration.
Besides, their joint action will also cover the security of major upcoming events this year, with a particular focus on the Summer Olympics.
The dialogue between our 2 countries should also help improve the fight against radicalisation as well as crimes committed online.
Both countries continue to deliver against the landmark deal agreed between the Prime Minister and President Macron during the March 2023 Leaders’ Summit. Already, over half of the 500 UK-funded French personnel have been deployed to tackle small boats.
The recent fatal incidents in the Channel are a tragic reminder of the human cost of these dangerous crossings. It is imperative to dismantle the organised criminal gangs responsible, whose action is increasingly violent and inhuman.
Since May 2023, the UK and France have worked even more closely together in northern France, with UK liaison officers permanently based in Lille and in Calais, enhancing information exchange at working level between our countries in order to prevent crossings and investigate organised criminal groups.
The UK and France continue to have a strong and highly valued relationship on security and counter terrorism issues. This includes cooperation to tackle terrorism at home and overseas, including action against Hamas and other terrorist groups.
The UK continues to offer France with support for the upcoming Olympic Games, having shared experiences from London 2012 and other major events including Her Majesty The Late Queen’s funeral and His Majesty The King’s Coronation.