First, as has been widely pointed out, ripping up the 2003 Le Touquet Accords and throwing the border back on to the English side of the Channel, or indeed opening a “hotspot” processing centre on the French side, would be a spectacular own-goal by the French. Firstly, as both Lord Green, the chairman of Migration Watch UK, and Sir Peter Ricketts, the former UK ambassador to Paris, have pointed out, it would trigger a “flood of applicants” to Calais, acting as a “huge magnet” for claimants. Far from shrinking the 10,000-strong population of the “jungle”, as the president of the Calais region Xavier Bertrand understandably wants to do, it would have precisely the opposite effect, swell its ranks as migrants flocked to take a shot at getting asylum in the UK.
Second, as sensible French politicians like the interior Bernard Cazeneuve and the foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault have observed, Mr Sarkozy’s plan would incentivise thousands of migrants to take to the waters of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. As Mr Ayrault pointed out, “we’ll need to have boats ready to save people” as Calais migrants replicated the kinds of scenes playing out daily in the Mediterranean, knowing that UK officials no longer had the right to return migrants to the French side of the border.