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Official speeches and statements - May 7, 2020

Published on May 7, 2020

1. Brexit - Future of the agreements signed with the United Kingdom in the context of Brexit - Reply by the Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a written question in the National Assembly (Paris, May 5, 2020)

Since the United Kingdom is not a member of the Schengen Area, rules on land and maritime border crossings are laid down in bilateral treaties between France and the United Kingdom, the implementation of which is not called into question by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Firstly, the Le Touquet treaty, signed on February 4, 2003, established juxtaposed controls at the maritime border in Channel and North Sea ports. Three lots of maritime juxtaposed controls are currently in operation in the ports of Dover in the United Kingdom, and Calais and Dunkirk in France.

Following the migration crisis of 2015 and given the need to develop the legal framework for Franco-British cooperation on migration management, France and the United Kingdom signed a new treaty at the Sandhurst summit on 18 January 2018 relating to the reinforcement of cooperation for the coordinated management of their shared border.

The Sandhurst Treaty establishes a legal framework guaranteeing the continuity of the essential aspects of our joint cooperation commitments concerning the border and migration. It provides for increased security at the border in France as well as in and around the cross-Channel ports. It sets out joint measures to implement in the framework of sustained cooperation on policing, security and criminal justice.

The Sandhurst Treaty also strengthens the shared commitments on processing international protection applications, the smooth management of migratory flows, the fight against people trafficking and organized crime, inter alia through increased cooperation with third countries and the actual implementation of removal measures, in strict compliance with our international obligations on human rights protection.

In this context, the opening of the Joint Information and Coordination Center (CCIC) in Coquelles in November 2018 was an important milestone in strengthening the effectiveness of our cooperation with the British. The CCIC aims to facilitate information exchanges and coordination between police and intelligence services, particularly as regards the prevention and management of threats to public order, increased migratory pressure and the fight against people-smuggling and organized crime rings.

The Center has been an important milestone in strengthening the effectiveness of our cooperation with the British. With the increasing number of attempted illegal crossings on small boats to the United Kingdom from December 2018, a joint action plan was also signed in January 2019 by the French Interior Minister and British Home Secretary, providing inter alia for Britain to pay nearly €7 million towards the cost of equipment (particularly for coastal security: beach-accessible vehicles, night-vision equipment) and towards work to secure infrastructure (stepping up security at the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer). Among other things, the plan, which is helping to strengthen interception capabilities, allowed the police to intercept around 60 embarkations, totaling 686 passengers, in French waters over the first 10 months of 2019.

As regards relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the withdrawal agreement which came into force on January 31, 2020 provides for a transition period lasting until at least 30 December - which may be extended by the joint decision of the United Kingdom and the EU before 1 July 2020 -, during which the provisions of EU law shall continue to apply in the United Kingdom as they did when it was a member State, without it participating in the EU decision-making process.

Following the transition period, EU law will cease to apply in the United Kingdom, which will have become a third State. The purpose of the transition period opened up by the withdrawal agreement is to allow arrangements for the future partnership between the EU and the United Kingdom to be worked out, in the framework of a negotiation which began on March 2, 2020 between the British negotiating team and that of the EU, led by Michel Barnier.

For the EU, the future partnership with the United Kingdom should include provisions on the fight against illegal migration. Indeed the EU’s negotiating directives, which the 27 member States’ European affairs ministers adopted on February 25, 2020 and which constitute negotiator-in-chief Michel Barnier’s mandate for conducting the discussions, devote a section to this.

The EU would like the envisaged partnership to develop "cooperation to tackle irregular migration of nationals other than those of the Parties, including its drivers and consequences, whilst recognizing both the need to protect the most vulnerable and the United Kingdom’s future status of a non Schengen third country that does not provide for the free movement of persons."

This cooperation should, inter alia, include "cooperation with Europol to combat organized immigration crime in line with arrangements for the cooperation with third countries set out in the relevant Union legislation", and "a dialogue on shared objectives and on cooperation, including in third countries and international fora, to tackle irregular migration upstream."

Finally, in the area of asylum, a statement by the Commission annexed to the decision to open negotiations with the United Kingdom envisages engaging in a dialogue with the United Kingdom on asylum cooperation, should the United Kingdom request it and when it is in the EU’s interest.

The provisions actually envisaged for the future of relations with the United Kingdom will depend on the outcome of the negotiations, in the framework of which France is fully mobilizing to reach an ambitious, balanced partnership, capable of responding to the shared challenges for the future of relations with the United Kingdom, in the area of migration in particular.

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