The migrant crisis is putting Boris Johnson under enormous pressure to hit Macron where it hurts, Martin Jay writes.
Time after time, in recent weeks, we have seen the threats and rhetoric ramped up by “weasel” French President against Boris Johnson and his government. Whether it is the rights of British fisherman to be in their own waters or more recently the migrant crisis which captured the headlines when 27 asylum seekers attempting to cross the Channel perished when their boat was unable to sustain what is believed to be a wake left by an oil tanker.
But how much longer can Boris Johnson stay at the helm when faced with the outright threatening manner of Macron? The French president doesn’t seem to stop with the machine gun narrative which is always aimed at harming the British economy, its post-Brexit freedoms and its inevitable future as a vibrant independent economy. The latest insult by Macron calling Johnson a “clown” surely went over a line. Isn’t it time that Boris put on the gloves and faced this cowardly French president head to head? In the words of John Major, surely now is the time for Boris to deliver the ultimatum to France and its two-faced President to “put up or shut up”
Two-faced because, in reality, Macron is no friend of the British, but sees them as an adversary both to France and his own Presidency. A thriving UK is a threat to the status quo of Macron and France’s role within the EU itself. But Macron can’t help himself with the threats, games and skulduggery which comes with a hefty price for the British.
We should not be taken in by the theatre of what is being put on for our benefit to fool us into thinking that Macron really cares about the Calais Jungle and the record numbers of migrants now arriving on our shores. The recent calls by him that he needs more cooperation from Boris Johnson’s government is folly. In reality, he simply wants more money. Blackmail is always a game which never ends. It only has a beginning and the victim never stops paying. And this is precisely what Macron wants from the UK.
If Macron genuinely wanted to help resolve the crisis he could easily propose new, tougher laws aimed at the smugglers themselves, break up the camps completely and properly use France’s navy to stop them boarding boats in the first place. He could also initiate a new policy whereby French police would no longer watch migrants get into their boats, while they merely watch and gloat and even take photos on their phone. And perhaps more importantly, he would allow British police officers to act as watchers, to work hand in hand with the French, to stop the smugglers. How is it that the UK accepts armed French police in their London Terminal of the Eurostar – to help the French intercept criminals before they even leave the UK – but are not allowed to have their own police simply work as spotters on French soil?
Macron’s concerns are entirely disingenuous and it’s high time that Boris manned up and accepted the French president’s stunts for that they are: fake and politically motivated aimed at creating a political hullabaloo to bring down a Brexit government and to make an “example” of the UK for the rest of the EU.
But Macron is not the only one who is faking it.
It’s a similar story with the EU’s announcement that it will send a plane to monitor the boats crossing from France to the UK. Don’t believe a word of it. The plane will no doubt seem to do its job but it’s all part of a ruse which in reality punishes the UK for Brexit. If the EU was serious about helping with the migrant crisis, it would create a multimedia PR campaign and pay for advertising space on TV, radio and mainstream media in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and other countries like Somalia showing the darker side of the route to the UK – and use the tragic deaths of those who recently perished. Most people in the UK never even knew that most of what they saw on their TVs when Britain was in the EU, from mainstream media was financially subsidised by the EU itself to the tune of hundreds of millions of euros each year. If the EU has that kind of cash for fake news, why can’t it use some of it to inform people on the edge of Europe that the path to the UK is fraught with danger? Given that the migrant crisis is a direct result of the EU’s own failed immigration/asylum policies, one would have thought this would be a natural path for Brussels to follow.
But Brussels doesn’t do ‘Mea Culpa’.
Boris needs to stop allowing Macron to continue with these games and show him that Britain can get tough on the migrants and the French. He needs to work much more closely with the Royal Navy and give it the greenlight to tow the boats back to France and do the job of the French navy. If the legal boffins argue that the British are not allowed to “dump” refugees in French waters, surely the counter argument is that this is precisely what the French are doing.
Boris should also play hardball on defence and security cooperation and threaten France that it will remove British troops from Mali where they are risking their lives specifically so that French nationals can work there and French companies can make money, under the hilarious auspices of a UN peacekeeping mandate of fighting terrorism. Macron wants a bigger defence and security cooperation deal with Boris as France’s defence budget is smaller than the UK’s but if Boris can’t get any cooperation on immigrants in the Channel whose numbers alone are posing a threat to the UK’s own stability, why should Boris keep British soldiers in Mali? The last time in history the French navy posed a threat to Britain by doing nothing was in the early months of WWII where Churchill could see that with the Germans advancing rapidly towards Paris, they would inevitably take full control of the French navy and use it to attack the British. The French refused then to cede to Churchill’s demands that the ships were destroyed, rather than fall into the enemy’s hands. In the event, it was the British who destroyed them. Will Boris have to reinvent this historical moment and similarly take bold decisions which once again affect France’s battleships which are unable to stop literally thousands of immigrants from crossing the channel?