Rishi Sunak has hailed the latest agreement with France as contributing to his efforts to “grip illegal migration”, which he said has consumed much of his time in No 10 so far.
The Prime Minister said he was “confident” the number of small boat crossings would come down over time after the number of people making the perilous journey to the UK across the Channel so far this year topped 40,000.
Speaking to reporters travelling with him to Indonesia for the G20 summit, Mr Sunak said he was “pleased” to be signing the deal with France, while confirming that the annual amount paid by the UK will increase to 72 million euros (£63 million).
“A couple of highlights are a 40% increase in the number of patrols happening, and for the first time, British officials embedded in French operations to strengthen co-ordination and the effectiveness of our operations,” he said.
“When it comes to migration more generally, I do think that the absolute priority that the British people have right now, as do I, is to grip illegal migration.
“I made a commitment that I would grip it in the summer. And I can tell you all that I’ve spent more time working on that than anything else – other than, obviously, the autumn statement – over the past couple of weeks.
“Look, I’ve been honest that there’s not a single thing to do to fix it and we can’t fix it overnight.
“But there’s a range of things I’m working on, including the French deal, where I’m confident we can bring the numbers down over time and that’s what I’m going to deliver.”
Mr Sunak said he had raised the issue in his first conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, and the pair “spent more time talking about it” during their meeting at the Cop27 climate talks in Egypt.
He added: “Only by working with other countries can you make progress on the things that impact people at home.”