Ex-Border Force boss accuses EU of fuelling migrant crisis as ‘Brexit punishment

Migrant small boats cross The Channel on record breaking day

Sulking EU chiefs are prolonging the migrant boats crisis as a punishment for Brexit, a former British borders chief has suggested.

Tony Smith said their refusal to discuss a deal to take back those who cross the Channel illegally smacked of “punishment” for voting to leave the EU.

He also blasted their “hypocrisy” in blocking efforts to strike a deal which could save lives, stop organised crime and ease the asylum crisis costing taxpayers £6million a day. Mr Smith,

who served as director general of the Border Force during a Home Office career of more than 40 years, said the “only sure-fire way” to stop the boats is to make it clear illegal migrants will be sent back.

But he said the EU’s refusal to discuss a new returns pact at a time when desperate people were routinely drowning has left him wondering if “this is some sort of a Brexit punishment”.

In an interview with the Sunday Express, he declared: “People are dying in our common Channel between the EU and the UK. We’ve got international organised crime on our doorsteps. It is causing untold misery.”

READ MORE: France stops less than half of Channel migrants despite £480m from UK[LATEST]

Exclusive polling by Omnisis shows strong support for sending back illegal arrivals. When asked if “undocumented immigrants who enter from an EU country be sent back to that country”, 63 percent said yes. Only 19 percent disagreed.

Senior Tories have called on Eurocrats to “stop sulking and get cracking” to stop criminals “running riot” and causing deaths at sea.

French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to strike a returns deal and is

adamant that any arrangement must be agreed with the EU.

But the European Commission insists it has “no mandate” to do so.

Mr Smith, who ran Border Force in 2012 and 2013, hit out just days after six Afghans died when their packed small boat capsized as they attempted to cross the Channel.

The experienced official, awarded the CBE for services to the safety and security of London during the 2012 Olympics, believes EU divisions over asylum are a further cause of the intransigence.

He declared: “The EU has not got its own house in order. I think European Com-missioners are being hypocritical in suggesting they are not prepared to talk to us about something that could actually save lives and help us to stop criminality.”

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High-profile Conservatives are now calling on Brussels to put politics aside and strike a deal.

Marco Longhi, who sits on the Commons Home Affairs committee, said: “The European Commission should move heaven and earth to strike a repatriation agreement with the UK without delay. It is in the interests of both sides to ensure that any illegal migrant is sent back immediately.

“This could shatter the foul business model of the criminal gangs and – crucially – stop lives being lost.

“It would be an outrage if the EU allows internal divisions and lingering anger about Brexit to thwart an urgently needed deal.”

Natalie Elphicke stressed that it was in the EU’s interests to reach an agreement.

The Dover MP said: “Illegal migration is a European-wide problem. Stopping the Channel crossings doesn’t just help the UK, it helps the EU too, reducing a major pull factor that affects the entire continent. We worked together in the past to stop people being smuggled in the backs of lorries. That’s what needs to happen again to stop the small boats.

“It’s in no one’s interests for organised crime to run riot through Northern France and the EU as a whole.”

And Daniel Kawczynski said EU divisions were “no excuse not to agree a common sense deal which would result in illegal arrivals being sent back immediately”.

The Shrewsbury and Atcham MP added: “Eurocrats have the chance to save lives by agreeing a loophole-free repatriation agreement that would put the people smugglers out of business and save lives. They should stop sulking and get cracking.”

A European Commission spokesman said: “As we already said in the past, the European Commission has no mandate to negotiate
a return and re-admission agreement with the UK.”

He added that Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is negotiating with the UK “with the objective of strengthening co-operation on common migration challenges”.

Last week France’s former ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann, said it was “totally delusionary” to expect that “no one will cross the Channel”.

This came as it was revealed the number of migrants stopped by French police has fallen despite a £480million deal to enhance beach patrols.

Only 45.2 percent were halted from January to mid-August, compared with 45.8 percent in the same period in 2022.

More than 25,000 small-boat crossings have been made since Mr Sunak became PM, according to Labour analysis.

And Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said a new “returns deal” is needed.

“The Conservatives have allowed criminal smuggling gangs take hold on Britain’s borders – and Tory incompetence is risking our national security, putting lives at risk, and pounding the public purse for millions every day,” he said.

“Rishi Sunak has fundamentally failed to get a grip and crossings are rocketing on his watch. It’s time for a different approach.

“The Prime Minister must now back Labour’s plan to stop the dangerous crossings by going after the criminal gangs.”

But a Conservative spokesman shot back: “Sir Keir Starmer and his fellow lefty lawyers oppose any and every practical measure to stop the boats. A vote for Labour would be a vote for more boats, more hotels and more pressure on public services.

“Only the Conservatives have made stopping the boats a priority.”

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