Signed by Emmenuel Marcon, the current French President and UK PM Theresa May, the Sandhurst Treaty has stirred up controversy and gained mixed reactions from the haulage industry who consider the arrangement insulting. It has been confirmed that the UK would contribute £44.5 million to support the police force and security across the border in Calais. The FTA applauded the move yet the RHA didn't think that it was the best way forward for the country.
The FTA takes the view that using resources to strengthen the safety of borders in France is a well-meant and worthwhile investment. Head of European Policy, Pauline Bastidon spoke regarding the matter saying that Marcon’s commitment that there will be no site put in place to replicate the notorious jungle was a very welcomed gesture, she told reports:
“The FTA welcomes the intention from the UK and French Governments to reinforce border security, especially in Calais. Our priority is our drivers’ safety. We want them to feel safe while undertaking their daily tasks and operating across the area. Any measures that will help to reinforce their safety is therefore welcome.
“While the situation has greatly improved as a result of the ‘Jungle’ camp clearance, something the FTA campaigned for very actively, there is still evidence of tangible migrant activity, not only in Calais, but also on the roads leading up to the town. This is something that will only be solved through reinforced cooperation between the French and the UK Governments. With Brexit looming on the horizon, this cooperation is more crucial now than ever. Meanwhile, the FTA urges members to continue to take extra care when moving goods to and from the port areas, and to be extremely vigilant on the approach roads to Calais.”
The RHA had their own say on the matter, as shared by Chief Executive Richard Burnett who said:
“We estimate that over £100 million has already been spent on improving security at the port. Today we learn that another substantial sum is to be sent across the Channel to improve security fencing, CCTV and detection technology. So why is more investment needed? We already have it on very good authority that the heartbeat monitors installed at the border are not being used.
“Government should be pressing the French authorities to ensure that the security equipment already in place is being used before the British taxpayer is asked to fork out for more. And who can forget the ‘Great Wall of Calais’? Another security ‘white elephant’ paid for by UK taxpayers that quickly proved itself to be a resounding failure.
“Despite the millions being invested, the lives of the thousands of HGV drivers that travel through Calais every day on outward and inward journeys are still being put at risk and their protection is our prime concern. The whole situation of security at Calais is turning into a money pit. We need transparency as to where UK money is being spent. We need to see the plan for tackling the situation and that includes a proper processing system in northern France to deal with migrants making asylum applications.
“Simply throwing more money at the problem won’t make it go away. Money alone isn't going to solve this crisis. It requires the political will and leadership from the two governments to work together to restore the rule of law to these crucial international trade routes."
Many are unsatisfied with the agreement, even those in France. With reporters at Le Monde:
Oliver Cahn has written on Brexit from a French perspective multiple times. Stating that France has turned into the UK’s Libya, elaborating:
”France is having to deal with Britain’s immigration problems and tackle on a daily basis the flow of migrants attempting to cross the Channel. Britain has moved its border to France, just like the European Union has symbolically moved its borders to Libya to stem migration to Europe.
“On paper, it’s a two-way deal, but only because French police can carry out border checks in Britain, but the migration movement is only going in one direction. Migrants are trying to reach the UK from France, and not the other way around. The treaty moved the British border to France, which has been left to bear the brunt of the migrant crisis in Calais alone.”
In addition to this managing funding and exchanging platitudes over the suggested visit of the Bayeux Tapestry, the PM and president were simply considering the Le Touquet agreement which gives the authority for border officials from either France or the UK to station at either of the 2 territories. At the time Article 50 was triggered the British government altered a promise as part of the Dublin Regulation Amendment which allowed 3,000 children into the country, reducing the limit to a much lower 480. Human rights groups gave this decision heavy criticism.
The Sandhurst agreement is designed to ensure children only need to wait 25 days before having visa application submitted rather than a 6-month waiting period. Adult migrants will receive faster throughputs too, with targets for one month once documents have been processed. The deal was put in place by Macron to assure that his promise as part of a manifesto pledge remained: “there will no longer be migrants in Calais.”
French ports have already received multiple reports of migrants heading towards other less secure ports in an attempt to cross the Channel.