Migrants, EU referendum, come to fore at France-UK summit
PARIS (AP) — French politicians targeted the British referendum on EU membership on Thursday, warning that leaving the 28-nation bloc would give London new problems regarding migrants, banking and terrorism.
Ahead of the first summit of the French and British leaders since the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, two members of France's Socialist government warned that a British departure from the European Union will make it harder to block migrants from crossing the Channel, would threaten London's dominance in the financial sector and would complicate security cooperation.
Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times that the bilateral agreement under which France keeps migrants on its side of the Channel could come into question if the U.K. leaves the EU. Macron also pointedly took aim at London's role in banking, which relies heavily upon Europe's open economy.
"The day this relationship unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais and the financial passport would work less well," he said.
Britain's auto industry — including Rolls-Royce Motor Cars — chimed in as well, saying Thursday that the EU's open borders are good for business. But while many major British corporations want to stay, about 200 small-business entrepreneurs signed a letter saying that leaving the EU would offer more "flexibility and adaptability."
Harlem Desir, the French secretary of state for European affairs, echoed Macron's concerns.
"There is no blackmail or threat, but we cooperate more easily if the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union than if it is not," he told RFI radio on Thursday.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is meeting Thursday in the city of Amiens with French President Francois Hollande, has also suggested France could end its border deal with Britain if the UK votes to leave.
But Conservative lawmaker Bernard Jenkin, who wants Britain to quit the bloc, said Cameron was just trying to get other European governments to "scare people" out of voting to leave. He noted France's interior minister has described opening the border with Britain as irresponsible.
"I don't think responsible European governments are going to cut off their noses to spite their faces just because we vote to leave the EU," Jenkin told the BBC.
Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed.