David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, accused No 10 of scaremongering after Downing Street signalled that David Cameron would raise the prospect of the refugee camps in northern France moving across the Channel.
Davis hit out at Downing Street after the prime minister’s deputy spokesman warned that France could rescind the right of UK border guards to be stationed in northern France if the UK left the EU.
The No 10 spokesman said: “We currently have these juxtaposed controls with France that, should the UK leave the EU, there is no guarantee that those controls would remain in place. If those controls weren’t in place then there would be nothing to stop thousands of people crossing the Channel overnight and arriving in Kent and claiming asylum.”
He added: “We have an arrangement in place with France. We are both EU partners. Should we leave the EU there is no guarantee that that relationship, in terms of the controls we have in France at the moment, would continue. If those controls didn’t continue then there are thousands of people there who are there specifically because they want to come to the UK who would then come to the UK.”
Asked about the claim, Cameron did not go as far as his spokesman but warned that leaving the EU could give France an excuse to move border controls from Calais to Dover.
He said: “This is a bilateral agreement, a good agreement that means our borders are effectively in Calais, not in Dover. That is good for Britain. I want to keep that. I work very hard with my French counterparts to make sure we do keep that … But the fact is there are a lot of opposition parties in France that would love an excuse to tear up that treaty and would like the border to be Britain, not in France.
“I don’t want to give people an excuse to do that. If we can get this deal in Europe, if we can get this renegotiation fixed and stay in a reformed Europe, you know what you get. You know the borders stay in Calais and we have a seat concerning the rules when it comes to the future of Europe.”
Davis said Downing Street was scaremongering because UK border guards were stationed in France under the terms of an Anglo-French treaty that was agreed outside the EU.
Davis said: “As the argument slips away from the remain campaign they are forced to rely on desperate scaremongering. We already have a process where air carriers transporting passengers with no visa are fined as well as being responsible for returning people they have flown to the country illegally. There is no reason why the same policy would not work for trains and ferries. And we should spend a small fraction of the savings from our current EU budget contributions on enhancing our border controls and ensuring that they operate effectively.
“It is the failed EU immigration policy that has created the ‘Jungle’ camp near Calais. The idea that leaving the EU would give us less control of our borders is simply preposterous.”
This article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Monday 8th February 2016 14.41 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010