UK reaches new deal with EU on stopping small boats

1,716 people have crossed the channel this year. Credit: PA

The UK is set to sign a new arrangement with the EU’s border agency as part of its efforts to stop small boats crossing the Channel.

The deal agreed with the EU’s Frontex agency will see the UK Border Force co-operate more closely with its European counterparts, exchanging intelligence and collaborating on training, new technology and operations.

The deal however stops short of a returns agreement with the EU.

Home Secretary James Cleverly told ITV News, "this is about helping the EU secure its borders and in doing so, helping us secure ours".

"This cooperation will mean it is quicker, easier and more effective to share information and intelligence and break the business model of those evil people smuggling gangs".

Mr Cleverly will welcome European home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson to London on Friday to witness the signing of the arrangement by officials from Frontex and Border Force.

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Mr Cleverly said: “This government has a plan to break the model of the smuggling gangs, end the abuse of our asylum system and stop the boats. The plan is working with crossings down by a third – but we must go further.

“Organised immigration crime and people-smuggling are global challenges that require shared solutions and ambitions. Our landmark working arrangement between the UK and Frontex is another crucial step in tackling illegal migration, securing our borders and stopping the boats.”

The deal is the latest in a series of arrangements between the UK and Europe, including an agreement reached with France last year to increase co-operation between law enforcement agencies in the two countries.

It also follows discussions between the prime minister and Ursula Von der Leyen, the European Commission president, who agreed in May last year to strengthen co-operation on tackling small boats.

Rishi Sunak had a phone call with Ms Von der Leyen on Sunday and the pair welcomed the conclusion of the negotiations that led to the agreement formalised on Friday.

Mr Sunak made “stopping the boats” one of his five priorities for 2023. The number of people crossing the Channel in small boats last year fell from 45,755 to 29,437.

So far, 1,716 people have made the crossing this year, down from 2,720 in the same period last year.

Mr Cleverly insisted the government was making progress on small boats, "we've been bringing down small boats arrivals, last year there was a 36 per cent reduction compared with the year before.

"That is in large part because of the international co-operation we've had with Albania", he said.

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