Expert says EU will ‘play hardball’ over migrant returns agreement
Sir Keir Starmer has been warned the European Union will “play hardball” in any negotiations on a migrant returns deal.
The Labour leader this week unveiled plans to tackle the small boats crisis including a potential agreement with Brussels.
Such a deal may involve the UK taking a quota of asylum seekers who arrive in the bloc in exchange for the ability to return people who cross the Channel.
Professor Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said it is “inconceivable” the EU would “just agree to help us” and would “demand something in return”.
He told Andrew Marr on LBC: “I don’t know what sort of quota it might involve, but yes, I think if you negotiate with the EU on anything whether its trade or immigration you will find that they will demand something in return for any concessions.
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“So I think it’s inconceivable that they will just agree to help us particularly when you look at the figures because per capita last year countries like France and Germany were getting more asylum seekers in than we are.
“So they don’t feel any particular sympathy for us and I think as they always do will play hardball in any negotiation.”
It comes as an EU diplomat scoffed at Sir Keir’s plan for a bespoke return deal with the 27-nation bloc, which is dealing with its own internal rows over migration.
They told The Times: “The EU’s asylum system is broken, internal negotiations have now dragged on for more than seven years without an end in sight.
“There is absolutely no question of helping the UK until we have put our own house in order.
“Starmer is deluded if he thinks that European governments, who are under much more pressure on asylum and migration than Britain, are going to come to his rescue.”
Meanwhile, the Tories have seized upon the suggestion the Labour leader may accept a migrant quota from Brussels.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed the proposals could result in 100,000 EU migrants coming to the UK every year.
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And Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the Labour leader would let the UK become a “dumping ground” for Europe’s migrants.
But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper this morning said the Conservatives were “talking garbage” about Labour’s approach.
She told LBC: “Unfortunately this is just Rishi Sunak making things up because his plan isn’t working to tackle the Tory boats chaos.”
Ms Cooper added that formally joining the EU quota scheme would not be part of the plan because the UK is not a member state.
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