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French minister accuses UK of having a 'quasi-modern slavery' economic model

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-12-01 03:19

A French government minister has described the United Kingdom's labor market as "quasi-modern slavery" as the dispute between Britain and France over the Channel migrant crisis intensifies.

France has called on the UK to open safe routes for migrants, as the two countries continue to trade blame over responsibility for people attempting illegal crossings of the English Channel, the seaway that separates the two nations.

The crisis has come into focus after twenty-seven people drowned last week as they attempted to make the crossing in an inflatable dinghy, which sank.

France wants the UK to agree a new post-Brexit deal with the European Union to fight illegal migration, and France's Prime Minister Jean Castex was expected to set out the Elysee's demands for cooperation on Tuesday, The Guardian reported.

On Monday, France's European aff airs minister, Clement Beaune, said fewer checks on illegal workers made the UK an attractive destination for migrants.

British media reported that Beaune accused the UK of having "an economic model of, sometimes, quasi-modern slavery or at least of illegal work that is very strong".

"We're asking the British to change their (legal) framework," Beaune told French public radio channel France Inter. "If the British are not going back to a certain number of checks, on more humane, more compliant labor market regulation, this attraction will remain," he added.

After the row broke out, Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel was uninvited from a meeting on Sunday with European counterparts to discuss the migrant crisis.

Speaking at a news briefing in Paris on Monday, France's interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, said France would resume talks if the UK stopped engaging in "public invectives".

Earlier, Darmanin had said the UK must stop engaging in "double-speak" and said France does not want a bilateral deal with the UK on handling illegal immigration, preferring a "balanced "post-Brexit accord between Britain and the EU.

"One of the engines of the English economic policy-not all of it, obviously-is to employ workers illegally," said Darmanin, who has previously described the UK as an "El Dorado" for asylum seekers.

France has been critical of UK suggestions that small boats could be turned back toward Europe or that joint patrols could be conducted.

Darmanin said: "Can you imagine French policemen on British beaches? We are not the subcontractors of the British government."

He added: "We cannot change our geography, so we need to come to an understanding with our British friends and allies even though they have chosen to leave Europe. The common interest of Europe and Great Britain is to work together to try to solve this problem."

Reuters reported on Tuesday that French police were dismantling a migrant camp near the northern port of Dunkirk. It said armed officers entered the camp, before workers started pulling down tents and plastic shelters.

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