Calais migrants free to enter UK if Britain leaves EU – French official

French CRS riot police secure the area near makeshift shelters during the partial dismantelment of the camp for migrants called the "Jungle" in Calais, France. © Pascal Rossignol
Agreements which allow British border police to operate in Calais could be cast aside if Britain votes to leave the European Union (EU), a senior French government minister has warned.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times that the Le Touquet agreement, which allows for French and British cooperation in Calais to tackle the ongoing migrant and refugee crisis, could be threatened by a Brexit.

His remarks come as British Prime Minister David Cameron prepares to travel to France for a summit on the topic and discuss the possibility of the ‘Jungle’ camp being moved to the south coast of Britain. 

“The day this relationship unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais and the financial passport would work less well,” Macron told the paper.

The comments will be used by the ‘remain’ campaign to push the case for staying in the 28-country bloc, but the ‘leave’ campaign has already criticized the remarks as “scare mongering.

One anti-EU group, LEAVE.EU, has dismissed the claims, saying the Jungle camp would remain in France in the case of Brexit.

Spokesperson Jack Montgomery said “to be clear, [the] Le Touquet treaty has only been in place since 2004. The migrant camps were in Sangatte before that time, not Kent, because France and the UK are separated by the English Channel.”

“Absolutely nothing has changed, besides the need to scare British voters,” he added.

Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis also accused the French government of being Cameron’s latest recruit to “project fear” to persuade people to vote to stay in the bloc.

Speaking at a press conference with French President Francois Hollande the PM addressed accusations that he had been “scare-mongering” the public with remarks that the ‘Jungle’ camp could move to Britain if the country votes to leave the EU.

“Of course you can say this is all some giant conspiracy, some sort of David Icke-style ... It’s just nonsense. The best thing to do is to listen to the arguments, to listen to what people are saying, and to understand some of the risks and some of the uncertainties about leaving the European Union.

“When lots of friends of the United Kingdom, lots of organizations involved in industry and business and commerce and farming, are giving these warnings and drawing attention to these uncertainties, I would say it’s worth listening to those, rather than trying to pretend it is part of some giant conspiracy, which I think is complete nonsense,” he added.

The latest row over Calais follows similar claims made by the prime minister, who alleged the camp would move to the south coast of the UK if Britain left the EU because France would scrap Le Touquet and allow refugees and migrants to travel to Britain.

Xavier Bertrand, the president of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region, has also stressed that the bi-lateral agreement would be at risk if a Brexit took place.

In a letter to French President Francois Hollande, Bertrand said: “If Britain leaves Europe, right away the border will leave Calais and go to Dover. We will not continue to guard the border for Britain if it’s no longer in the European Union.”

“For months now, companies and people have been suffering from the migrant crisis,” he added.

“The inhabitants of Dover and Calais are directly affected as well as the surrounding regions and roads linking them. Furthermore, it is now a threat for the entire European logistics and freight industry, together with companies that rely on scheduled goods being delivered on time.”