Britain’s home secretary rejected a claim by French President Emmanuel Macron that the British economy relies on low-paid, undocumented migrants, amid on ongoing dispute about small boats crossing the English Channel.
London and Paris are at odds on how to manage flows of asylum seekers and other undocumented migrants who arrive in northern France with the aim of crossing to the U.K.
Macron has said Boris Johnson’s government must accept applications for asylum from migrants in France who seek to settle in Britain — but London has so far resisted that option.
Macron told French newspaper La Voix du Nord that the U.K. has a “system from the 1980s, which manages immigration through hypocrisy.” The French president urged the U.K. to tackle the use of cheap, illegal labor, and said he would “step up” pressure on Westminster to avert the Channel crossings.
“The responsibility for those who die at sea does not fall upon France but upon this British refusal,” Macron is quoted as saying.
That prompted an angry pushback Wednesday from Priti Patel, Britain’s home secretary, who branded Macron’s comments “absolutely wrong.”
She told the House of Commons home affairs committee the “entire French government — both the interior minister and president Macron” were “fully aware” of cooperation needed between the two countries “to combat the dangerous and unnecessary crossings, dealing with illegal migration, but also working with like-minded partners across Europe. So, those comments are just wrong.”