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Europe

Macron to press Theresa May on Calais border at meeting Thursday

media British Prime Minister Theresa May (C) with French President Emmanuel Macron at an EU summit last year REUTERS/Yves Herman

French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb has called for an addendum to the Le Touquet agreement with Britain about the handling of migrants in Calais. President Emmanuel Macron is expected to raise the question with UK Prime Minister Theresa May when he meets her on Thursday.

Collomb and Macron are to visit Calais two days before the president's British trip as France steps up pressure for Britain to share more of the costs of managing the migrants who flock to the port in the hope of crossing the Channel.

The 2004 agreement put the British border at Calais, allowing its customs and police to operate there.

Before the UK's Brexit vote, Macron, at the time economy minister in a Socialist government, said the agreement would have to be renegotiated if the leave vote won.

Macron to meet May

His government is not going that far today, with Collomb simply calling for a new clause to be added that should ensure that Britain would "take on a certain amount of the costs" and accept more refugees, especially unaccompanied minors.

A French presidential statement a week ago said that "ways to improve the handling of migrants on the common border in Calais" would be discussed at the bilateral meeting at the British military academy in Sandhurst, south of London.

The British statement on the meeting did not even mention the question, however, simply saying that defence and security would be discussed.

They argue that they have repeatedly financed the construction of increasingly imposing barriers to prevent migrants approaching the entrance to the Channel tunnel.

Migrants set up roadblock

A group of migrants set up an improvised roadblock on the Calais ringroad on Thursday night, the first this year.

Six such roadblocks, which aim to slow down vehicles heading for the tunnel so that migrants can jump into them, were counted in December and 16 the previous month.

A Polish van driver died in an accident caused by one of them in June.

Divisions over planned immigration bill

Migration will also be high on the agenda of a seminar of MPs from Macron's Republic on the Move party on Monday and Tuesday as the government attempts to calm concerns that its proposed law on the subject will be too harsh.

Some pro-Macron MPs have called for a more humane policy than the blunt assertion that France will accept refugees but "cannot take in economic migrants" repeated by Collomb in the interview published by Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday.

NGOs who met Prime Minister Edouard Philippe last Thursday criticised the planned law as unfair.

The new leader of the of the mainstream right Republicans takes the opposite view.

"With Emmanuel Macron, there will be more and more illegal immigrants," he told the Journal du Dimanche paper.

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