Life after Brexit: Emmanuel Macron to ask Theresa May to pay for border controls

By Snigdha Kalra

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May in January, amongst the ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU concerning the transition period of Brexit. The meeting is likely to be held at the 35th UK-France Summit on 18th January.

Foremost on the agenda will be bilateral trade talks. The French President is also expected to put forth the issue that the United Kingdom, and in particular Britain, should pay for border controls as well as the costs of putting up new customs services at French ports, post-Brexit.

Contentious issues

A major issue for Macron is the servicing of French ports after the UK exits the European Union. The French ports of Calais and Dunkirk are used to supply goods to the English port of Dover. Post-Brexit, there will arise a need to establish new customs and immigration controls at these ports, the cost of which may run into hundreds of millions of pounds. Macron believes that the UK should pay for these costs, an issue on which he is facing political pressure within France. He is likely to raise this in the meeting with Theresa May.

However, Brexit supporters are not with him on this stand. Iain Duncan Smith, Member of Parliament of the UK, said, “There is no logical or legal reason why Britain should pay anything towards this. It is an absurdity.” He puts forth the point that no other European country has made such a demand, and that France will benefit from the arrangement, as its exports to the UK are greater than imports.

He also said, “Theresa May can smile sweetly at Mr Macron and tell him there will not be a penny more than has already been agreed. We have already said how much we will pay, and if the EU wants to give some of that money to France that’s up to them.”

Macron v/s May

Emmanuel Macron hasn’t been particularly amiable towards Theresa May, or towards the UK in general, during the Brexit talks. Along with the above-mentioned issue, he has also shown a willingness to renegotiate the ‘Le Touquet Treaty’, which is a border control treaty between France and the UK.

May, however, expresses an inclination towards cooperation with France. “France is one of the UK’s oldest and closest allies and our partnership is one that we both rely on…We also work closely together as the only European countries who are permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as members of the G7, G20 and Nato…And our two countries also enjoy deep economic ties, sharing £71bn in trade, making France the UK’s third-largest trading partner,” she said.

The right action

Dover is one of the busiest ports in England, servicing huge amounts of manufactured goods. Any disruptions to the traffic flow from this port can lead to huge losses. Jean-Paul Mulot, envoy to the UK for the ports of Calais and Dunkirk among others, said, “At the height of the migrants’ crisis two years ago when cross-Channel traffic was being disrupted, Volkswagen’s Oxford factory considered closing temporarily because it was running out of parts. About 800,000 car parts cross the Channel each day, and huge quantities of food too.”

Thus, it is in all involved parties’ interest to design the border arrangements without any discord, in order to prevent any disruptions and losses to any side.

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