A new Anglo-French deal to prevent Channel migrant crossings was signed tonight, as France agreed to double police beach patrols but continued to resist taking back arrivals.
The four-point plan which includes a major expansion of surveillance by drones and CCTV along the 100 miles of France’s northern coastline aims to catch migrants before they leave French soil.
It follows a seven-fold increase in the number of migrants crossing the Channel this year with a record 8,500 reaching UK shores since January.
The bilateral agreement signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and her counterpart Gérald Darmanin came as the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier arrived in London to restart Brexit talks which have been deadlocked by Anglo-French disputes over fishing rights.
Although sources insisted there was no linkage between migrants and fishing rights, they pointed to the deal as evidence of the two countries’ willingness to work together post-Brexit.
"We accept this is a shared problem and recognise we can only solve it by working together," said a Government source.
Under the agreement, gendarme patrols will double from December 1 supplemented by extra surveillance technology - including drones, radar equipment, optronic binoculars and fixed cameras - to help search the coastline quicker and deploy more police in the right place at the right time.
The increase in police operations is backed by a French pledge to disperse more migrants from the north of France to accommodation centres inland where they could apply for asylum in France or other EU countries.
Border security at ports in northern and western France will be increased to prevent smugglers shifting their illegal trafficking into lorries and other freight as the French attempt to choke off the sea routes.
The agreement builds on the joint cooperation that has already seen the proportion of crossings intercepted and prevented rise from 41 per cent in 2019 to 60 per cent in recent weeks. On Friday, the French caught 20 migrants attempting to reach England.
A joint intelligence cell (JIC) opened in July has helped secure around 140 arrests and prevent about 1,100 crossings, according to the Home Office.
The French, however, are still resisting British pleas to take back migrants caught anywhere in the Channel or on UK soil, or to mount operations at sea to intercept and return the illegal small boats to France, which the UK believes would be legal under maritime law.
Ms Patel is also looking to renegotiate the Dublin agreement under which EU countries take back migrants if they are proved to have passed through them and introduce a crackdown on asylum claims to counter late and repeat human rights claims against deportation.
The Home Secretary said: "Today’s agreement is a significant moment for our two countries, stepping up our joint action to tackle illegal migration. Thanks to more police patrols on French beaches and enhanced intelligence sharing between our security and law enforcement agencies, we are already seeing fewer migrants leaving French beaches.
“The actions we have agreed jointly today goes further, doubling the number of police officers on the ground in France, increasing surveillance and introducing new cutting edge technology, representing a further step forward in our shared mission to make channel crossings completely unviable.
“On top of these new operational plans, we will introduce a new asylum system that is firm and fair, and I will bring forward new legislation next year to deliver on that commitment.”