Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Britain has produced quite a range of stories. Some are eye-catching but ultimately rather ephemeral, such as the loan of the Bayeux Tapestry or Boris Johnson’s call for a ‘channel bridge‘.
Then you have the latest round of Brexit arm-wrestling, as seen in this morning’s stories about the President setting out tough conditions for ongoing access to EU markets for the City of London, and attempts to ‘mask the fallout’, as the FT puts it, with ” a flurry of joint defence, economic and cultural initiatives”.
But one story is notable by its absence – especially considering the years-long trail it has had from the Remain and continuity-Remain campaigns over the past few years: the collapse of Anglo-French border controls.
Prior to the referendum vote, remember, David Cameron was predicting that the Treaty of Le Touquet would get torn up and the so-called ‘Jungle’ would be relocating to Kent. Yet this week has confirmed that – for a fee – the camp will remain at its current home on the other side of the Channel.
There will be a row about the money – Britain is forking out an extra £44 million to help France police the border in Calais and this is, as The Sun points out, just the latest in a string of payments over the past few years which total £170 million. But then, the idea that the UK might use its status as a net contributor to buy its way into individual elements of the pre-Brexit state of affairs isn’t a new one.
It has never been in France’s interests to throw open the gates and allow all and sundry to cross the Channel – just as it was never in the rational interests of Scots to abandon the Union over Brexit. Doing so would simply induce huge numbers of additional migrants to make the journey across France, a prospect which French voters are little keener on than their British counterparts.
There are plenty of battles still to fight before the Brexit negotiations conclude, as Macron’s tough talk on the City makes more than clear. But the dooms prophesied by Remainers has been delayed yet again – even if they are a bit circumspect in acknowledging it.