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Bilateral agreements

There is a long history of UK-French co-operation over controls at their shared borders.

This has been formalised through a series of bilateral agreements, including the Sangatte Protocol (1991) and the Treaty of Le Touquet (2003). The latter allowed for France and the UK to carry out immigration controls in each other’s territories at seaports.

In the years since 2014 the UK has made various bilateral agreements with France. Most have had associated spending commitments. They include the ‘Sandhurst Treaty’ (PDF), agreed in 2018, which committed the UK to spending €50 million to improve security and reduce illegal migration in northern French ports, among other measures.

The most recent joint statement was signed by the Home Secretary and her French counterpart on 14 November. It includes a UK commitment to provide up to €72.2 million (around £62.2 million) in 2022-23. It also confirms both parties’ intention to secure a “more ambitious and comprehensive partnership”. A UK-France leaders’ summit is due to happen in early 2023.

Stakeholders including Border Force unions, some Members of Parliament, and asylum advocates have criticised the latest agreement for falling short of what is needed. They have variously called for a formal returns agreement with France; powers for French officers to arrest and detain intercepted migrants; operational powers for UK officers in France; and additional safe and legal routes for asylum seekers wishing to come to the UK.

UK spending commitments 2014 to present

Published information about the amounts of money committed by the UK and paid to France for border security measures is not always clear. For example, commitments are reported in inconsistent ways (eg. in Euros or GBP or attributed to calendar or financial years). Unsourced figures have sometimes been reported in the media, and published information does not always clearly identify the spending recipient.

Since 2014, the UK has committed slightly more than £232 million in successive published agreements with the French government:

  • 2014: £12 million over three years (Joint Ministerial Declaration)
  • 2015: £10 million over two years (Joint Ministerial Declaration)
  • 2016: £17 million (UK-France summit Annex on migration)
  • 2018: £45.5 million (Sandhurst Treaty)
  • 2019: £3.25 million (Joint Action Plan)
  • 2020: £28.1 million (Joint Statement)
  • 2021: £54 million (Joint Statement)
  • 2022: £62.2 million (Joint Statement)

The £232 million does not represent the total amount of UK spending related to border security in northern France since 2014.  

For example, answers to parliamentary questions (here and here) detail additional payments of just under £87 million, at least some of which appear to have been paid to the French government. They referenced the following dates and amounts:

  • 2014: additional £2.7 million for security improvements at Calais.
  • 2015: overall commitment under the 2015 Joint Declaration described as £45.96 million (mostly to Eurotunnel).
  • 2017: £36 million to strengthen the border and maintain juxtaposed controls.
  • 2019: Joint Action Plan supplemented by a further £2.25 million to support deployment of Gendarme Reservists and further strengthening of security measures.

Monitoring co-operation and funding outcomes

The impact of co-operation and funding is jointly assessed by France and the UK, including through regular strategic reviews. The Government has declined to publish details of the outcomes due to operational sensitivity concerns.

Evidence provided to the Home Affairs Committee in late October from Home Office officials showed that so far in 2022, 38,000 people have arrived in the UK via an irregular small boat crossing in 936 boats.

The French authorities have:

  • Stopped 42.5% (28,000) of people attempting to cross.
  • Intercepted and destroyed 53.4% (1,072) of boats.

The Home Office’s Clandestine Channel Threat Commander described the French authorities’ performance in 2022 as having intercepted “a lower percentage, but a much, much bigger number”. Their interception rates for boats and people in 2021 were both around 50%.

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