Monday, January 22, 2018

Freight and Road Haulage Associations Strongly Disagree on Anglo French Calais Border Deal

Disharmony in the Industry Over the Sandhurst Treaty
Shipping News Feature
UK – FRANCE – The so called 'Sandhurst Treaty', signed last week by French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May, has stirred up some conflicting views from members of the logistics community as the UK confirmed it will contribute a further £44.5 million to policing the international border in the Pas de Calais. Whilst the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has wholeheartedly welcomed the move, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has expressed a diametrically opposing view.

The FTA takes the view that spending money on the strengthening of security at the French ports is a good and well intentioned investment. The FTA's Head of European Policy, Pauline Bastidon said that Msieu Macron’s commitment that there will be no new migrant camp allowed to develop and replace the infamous ‘Jungle’ settlement was very welcome, and continued:

“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.”

Conversely the RHA expressed astonishment at the announcement that further UK funds were to be used to strengthen security measures at Calais, with RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett commenting at some length in a statement that had no hint of agreement with government policy, and saying:

“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."

It seems there are those in France who are also upset by the deal. Speaking to Le Monde, Oliver Cahn, who has written widely on Brexit from a French perspective, said France had become the UK’s Libya, explaining:

”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.”

As well as sorting out funding and exchanging platitudes over the proposed visit of the Bayeux Tapestry, the two leaders were in fact simply completing the Le Touquet agreement which confirms that border officials from either country could station officials on the other’s territory. Just before triggering article 50, this time last year the UK government reneged on its promises over the Dublin Regulation Amendment (DUBS) to allow 3,000 children into the country, reducing the limit to 480, many of whom were already settled in Britain, a decision severely criticised by human rights groups and others.

The new agreement, signed at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, is meant to ensure children only wait 25 days before having their visa applications processed, rather than the current 6 months. Adult migrants will also see faster throughputs with one month targets for processing the documents. The deal suits Msieu Macron as it enables him to complete an election manifesto pledge of 2016 that ‘there will no longer be migrants in Calais’.

Cynics may suggest that migrants are already seeking other French ports which are not so highly protected in their attempts to cross the Channel.

Photo: President Macron addresses police officers in Calais before travelling to meet Mrs May.