UK accused of 'modern slavery' as migrant row with France turns ugly

UK is accused of ‘modern slavery’ as tit-for-tat row with France over migrant row turns ugly

  • A minister in Paris has said Britain has a ‘quasi-modern slavery’ labour market
  • French interior minister Gerald Darmanin also ruled out joint coastal patrols
  • It comes after 27 migrants died trying to cross the Channel in a dinghy last week

The war of words between Britain and France over the Channel migrant crisis intensified last night as Paris described the UK’s labour market as ‘quasi-modern slavery’.

It came as interior minister Gerald Darmanin ruled out joint Anglo-French coastal patrols in northern France – and proposed ‘pushback’ tactics to divert dinghies away from UK waters.

Mr Darmanin called on Britain to agree a new post-Brexit deal with the EU to fight illegal migration, and said French premier Jean Castex will set out his demands in a letter to Boris Johnson today.

In the wake of the deaths of 27 migrants trying to cross the Channel in a flimsy dinghy last week, France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune said Britain’s labour market was to blame for the crisis, alleging that fewer checks on illegal workers made the UK an attractive destination.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin (pictured) ruled out joint Anglo-French coastal patrols in northern France

‘We’re asking the British to change their framework,’ he added. 

‘There is an economic model of, sometimes, quasi-modern slavery or at least of illegal work that is very strong. 

‘If the British are not going back to a certain number of checks, on more humane, more compliant labour market regulation, this attraction will remain.’ 

Mr Darmanin also blamed ‘the attractiveness of the UK’ for the crisis.

‘One of the engines of the English economic policy – not all of it, obviously – is to employ workers illegally,’ said the minister, who has previously described the UK as an ‘El Dorado’ for asylum seekers.

France will demand a ‘balanced’ post-Brexit accord between Britain and the European Union on handling illegal immigration, he said, rather than dealing directly with the UK.

Mr Darmanin reiterated his rejection of proposals backed by Home Secretary Priti Patel to turn around boats in the Channel, but said France is ready to resume talks once Britain ends its ‘double speak’. 

More than 26,500 migrants have crossed the Channel this year, more than triple the number in the whole of 2020. 

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