Rishi Sunak has hailed the latest deal with France as contributing to his efforts to “tackle illegal immigration”, which he said has consumed much of his time at No 10 so far.
The Prime Minister said he was “confident” the number of small boat crossings would decrease 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 traveling with him to Indonesia for the G20 summit, Sunak said he was “delighted” to sign the deal with France, while confirming that the annual amount the UK pays will rise to €72m (£63m). .
“A couple of highlights are a 40% increase in the number of patrols and, for the first time, British officials being integrated into French operations to strengthen the coordination and effectiveness of our operations,” he said.
“But this is not the end of our cooperation. What the agreement says is that it should be a basis for even greater cooperation in the coming months.
“When it comes to migration in general, I think the absolute priority that the British people have right now, as I do, is to control illegal immigration.
“I made a commitment that I would take it over the summer. And I can tell you that I’ve spent more time working on that than anything else, other than obviously the fall statement, in the last two weeks.
“Look, I’ve been honest that there’s nothing we can do to fix this and we can’t fix it overnight.
“But there are a number of things I’m working on, including the French deal, where I’m sure we’ll be able to reduce the numbers over time and that’s what I’m going to offer.”
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 progress be made on the things that affect people at home.”