Monday, November 28

James Cleverly refuses to say how UK-France deal on asylum seekers will affect numbers crossing Channel – UK politics live | Politics

James Cleverly refuses to say how UK-France deal on asylum seekers will affect numbers crossing Channel

Rishi Sunak will be arriving in Bali later for the G20 summit, but he has been speaking to the journalists travelling with him on his plane about a deal announced this morning with France, to increase cooperation on tackling people using small boats to cross the Channel. Here is our story, by my colleagues Jessica Elgot (who is with Sunak) and Peter Walker.

Sunak told reporters there was no “single thing” that would solve the small boats problem, but he said he was “confident we can bring the numbers down over time”.

But the government won’t say what difference it expects the deal with the French announced today to make. James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, has been giving interviews this morning and he has been dodging questions on this point. On the Today programme he said that cooperation with the French was already making a difference and that 29,000 people had been stopped from getting to the UK this year – almost twice as many as in previous years. But when Today’s Mishal Husain asked him what impact the new agreement was likely to have on the number of crossings (“I’m sure that you have a way of measuring that,” she said, optimistically), Cleverly declined to give a figure. He replied:

It’s really important you understand that we are we are dealing with an evolving situation … It’s very, very difficult to predict exact numbers. It depends on so many variables, but the important thing is that we are working more closely [with the French] …. more French officers on the beaches as a direct result of the agreement that the home secretary and the French interior minister have signed today.

I will post more from his interviews shortly.

Here is the agenda for the day.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

12.45pm: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, gives the keynote speech at the Centre for Policy Studies Margaret Thatcher Conference on Growth.

2.30pm: Home Office questions in the Commons.

4pm: James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, gives evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee.

try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

Rishi Sunak speaking to journalists on his plane to Bali. Photograph: Reuters

Key events

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Amnesty International UK has also criticised today’s UK-France small boats deal, saying it just another version of a “failed response’ that has not work. The charity’s refugee and migrant rights director, Steve Valdez-Symonds, said:

This deal is just the same as previous deals – spending money and resources on intercepting and obstructing people crossing the Channel, while doing nothing to address their need for safe access to an asylum system.

The inevitable result will be more dangerous journeys and more profits led by ruthless smuggling gangs and other serious criminals exploiting the refusal of the UK and French government to take and share responsibility.

Perpetuating this dreadful human suffering by recycling the same failed response to punish and deter desperate people in miserable and unsafe conditions has become mindless to the point of cruelty.

Unless the UK government accepts its share of people into its asylum system, particularly people with family and connections in the UK, there seems little prospect that anything is going to change, let alone improve.

Sadiq Khan dismisses UK-France small boats deal as ‘red meat’ for public that does not address cause of problem

Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, has dismissed the UK-France small boats deal as “red meat” for the public that does not address cause of the problem. He told Times Radio:

My concern is what the government’s doing today is sort of throwing some red meat to people who are concerned about migration and not addressing the core issue we’ve had over the last 11 months, 40,000 people crossing the Channel in little boats.

So this tough rhetoric clearly isn’t working by itself.

You’ve got to have close relations with France, colleagues in the European Union, with countries in north Africa, you’ve got to deal at source with those people who are playing on the misery of asylum seekers and refugees in relation to charging them a fortune.

Cleverly claims most people trying to get to UK in small boats are economic migrants

In an article in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said that asylum seekers should not be staying in luxury hotels. Echoing comments made by his boss, Suella Braverman, the home secretary, who recently complained about migrants being housed in four-star hotels, Jenrick said:

Human decency has to be accompanied by hard-headed common sense: illegal immigrants are not entitled to luxury hotels. Conditions in the UK are almost always better than in neighbouring countries, which helps explain why the UK is a destination of choice for economic migrants on the continent “asylum shopping”.

“Hotel Britain” must end, and be replaced with simple, functional accommodation that does not create an additional pull factor.

In an interview this morning James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, defended Jenrick’s comments, saying it was important to reduce the “pull factor” that made the UK attractive to economic migrants. He also claimed that most people trying to get to the UK were economic migrants. He told BBC Breakfast:

Many of the people, the bulk of people attempting to get to the UK, are economic migrants rather than fleeing persecution or war. They are seeking a better life. I get that, I understand that, the UK is a wonderful place to live.

But it is because they perceive the UK to be a very generous country, that is part of the pull factor.

Recent Home Office figures undermine claims that most of those crossing the Channel in small boats are economic migrants, rather than people with a genuine reason to seek asylum. Of the asylum cases that were decided in the year ending in June 2022, 76% initial decisions resulted in asylum, or an alternative form of leave to remain, being granted. That is the highest figure since 1990, when 82% of initial applications were granted.

Fifth of hospitality firms have cut trading hours to save energy costs, ONS says

Over a fifth of hospitality firms have cut their hours over the past three months in a bid to cut energy costs, the Office for National Statistics has revealed.

The ONS has released a report saying food and drink service firms, such as pubs, restaurants and bars, are more likely than firms in any other sector to cut trading to deal with mammoth increases in energy bills.

It says 21% of firms in the sector have cut their trading hours as a result, even if they are still operating for the same number of days.

Meanwhile, 6% of businesses in the sector say they have cut trading by two or more days a week over the past three months.

Firms cutting trading due to energy costs
Firms cutting trading due to energy costs. Photograph: ONS

Suella Braverman has been tweeting about the new small boats deal with the French.

Today, I signed an agreement with my friend @GDarmanin in Paris to ramp up our co-ordination to tackle illegal immigration. Our new deal will see UK officers embedded in French operations for the first time & a 40% increase in French officers patrolling in northern France 1/2 pic.twitter.com/h5a9rRdW1u

— Suella Braverman MP (@SuellaBraverman) November 14, 2022

Ce n’est qu’en travaillant ensemble que nous pouvons espérer résoudre ce problème complexe. Je voulais remercier Gérald et son équipe pour leur travail et leur coopération. 🇬🇧🇫🇷
2/2

— Suella Braverman MP (@SuellaBraverman) November 14, 2022

And these are from her French opposite number, Gérald Darminin.

👉🏼Engagement du Royaume-Uni à verser 72,2 millions d’euros pour lutter contre l’immigration clandestine
👉🏼augmentation de 40% des effectifs à la frontière
👉🏼financement de nouveaux équipements de surveillance
👉🏼Renforcement de la coordination et du partage d’information pic.twitter.com/D9HEeRjNRF

— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) November 14, 2022

Some 853 people were detected crossing the English Channel in small boats on Sunday, the Ministry of Defence said. It follows 972 crossings on Saturday.

As PA Media reports, the cumulative number of crossings this year now stands at a provisional total of 41,738.

Total crossings last year were 28,526.

There were 26 boats detected on Sunday, which suggests an average of around 33 people crossed the Channel per boat.

Lucy Moreton, an official with the ISU, the union for borders, immigration and customs staff, told Times Radio the new UK-France deal on asylum seekers would not address the core problem.

She said that interrupting migrants to “just let them go to try again” would not have the required impact and nothing in the deal suggested that “the French are going to move away from that position”. She went on:

The sticking points just simply have not been addressed.

As PA Media reports, the ISU professional officer added that intercepting migrants so they do not try to get to the UK again was not something the French “have ever wanted to do”, as from the French perspective “they are going the right way and it’s entirely understandable that they are not very keen to interrupt that”.

She said the UK needed to deal with the issue itself by resourcing “the court system far better than it has been” in order to process claims in a shorter space of time.

As my colleague Rajeev Syal reports, more than 40,000 people seeking asylum in the UK have waited between one and three years for a decision on their claim, new figures show.

Suella Braverman, the home secretary, has signed the new UK-France agreement on Channel crossings with her French counterpart, Gérald Darmanin, this morning. She said that it wasn’t a quick fix, but that it would lead to a significant increase in the number of French officers patrolling beaches. She said:

We must do everything we can to stop people making these dangerous journeys and crack down on the criminal gangs.

This is a global challenge requiring global solutions, and it is in the interests of both the UK and French governments to work together to solve this complex problem.

There are no quick fixes but this new arrangement will mean we can significantly increase the number of French gendarmes patrolling the beaches in northern France and ensure UK and French officers are working hand in hand to stop the people smugglers.

Suella Braverman shaking hands with Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, after they both signed the new asylum seekers agreement in Paris.
Suella Braverman shaking hands with Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, after they both signed the new asylum seekers agreement in Paris. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

James Cleverly refuses to say how UK-France deal on asylum seekers will affect numbers crossing Channel

Rishi Sunak will be arriving in Bali later for the G20 summit, but he has been speaking to the journalists travelling with him on his plane about a deal announced this morning with France, to increase cooperation on tackling people using small boats to cross the Channel. Here is our story, by my colleagues Jessica Elgot (who is with Sunak) and Peter Walker.

Sunak told reporters there was no “single thing” that would solve the small boats problem, but he said he was “confident we can bring the numbers down over time”.

But the government won’t say what difference it expects the deal with the French announced today to make. James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, has been giving interviews this morning and he has been dodging questions on this point. On the Today programme he said that cooperation with the French was already making a difference and that 29,000 people had been stopped from getting to the UK this year – almost twice as many as in previous years. But when Today’s Mishal Husain asked him what impact the new agreement was likely to have on the number of crossings (“I’m sure that you have a way of measuring that,” she said, optimistically), Cleverly declined to give a figure. He replied:

It’s really important you understand that we are we are dealing with an evolving situation … It’s very, very difficult to predict exact numbers. It depends on so many variables, but the important thing is that we are working more closely [with the French] …. more French officers on the beaches as a direct result of the agreement that the home secretary and the French interior minister have signed today.

I will post more from his interviews shortly.

Here is the agenda for the day.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

12.45pm: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, gives the keynote speech at the Centre for Policy Studies Margaret Thatcher Conference on Growth.

2.30pm: Home Office questions in the Commons.

4pm: James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, gives evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee.

try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

Rishi Sunak speaking to journalists on his plane to Bali.
Rishi Sunak speaking to journalists on his plane to Bali. Photograph: Reuters





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