French min. threatens to flood UK with migrants

Economy minister says if UK leaves EU, Paris will no longer allow UK border controls in Calais 'Jungle.'

Ari Yashar,

Migrant in front of burning hut in Calais "Jungle"
Migrant in front of burning hut in Calais "Jungle"
Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron on Thursday threatened the UK, saying that if Britain votes to leave the European Union (EU), France will end UK border controls in Calais allowing migrants to flood in.

"The day this relationship unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais," warned Macron in an interview with the Financial Times.

Currently the UK and France have an agreement, by which the UK can conduct border controls and check the immigration status of migrants on the French side of the English Channel before they come in to the UK. That agreement is a bilateral treaty unconnected to Britain's membership in the EU.

There are around 4,000 migrants currently located in Calais waiting to cross into England - just this Monday clashes took place at the "Jungle camp," as the site where the migrants are staying is called, when French demolition teams dismantled shacks built by them.

While France could realize Macron's threat at any time, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said it would be "foolhardy" to do so, and would cause "a humanitarian disaster."

Macron's threats came ahead of security and migration talks in France between UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande in France, and set off an uproar in Britain.

"We will send them straight back"

One response came from Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, who said "propaganda" is "being produced by other European governments at the request of the prime minister to try to scare people away from voting to leave."

"We pay a great deal of money into the EU and it subsidizes a great deal of French farming. Surprise surprise, they don't want us to leave the EU," said Jenkin.

"But this is a choice for the British people, not for the French government, and actually we're being asked to believe all sorts of ludicrous things."

Also firing back at Macron was Conservative MP Peter Bone, of the Grassroots Out campaign.

Bone said "if asylum seekers start arriving at Dover, we will send them straight back. As an independent nation, outside of the EU, we will control our own borders whether the French government likes it or not."

Macron in his interview Thursday also said France would roll out a "red carpet" to lure London's bankers away from the UK, if Britain chooses to leave the EU.

He said France could limit access to the single market, in a bid to tempt bankers to relocate from the UK.

If England left the EU and the single market, it would "not be able to secure the same terms," he said, and the EU's "collective energy would be spent on unwinding existing links, not re-creating new ones."