Starmer’s EU migrant deal will be a yardstick for Britain’s rear

Sir Keir Starmer kicked off his planned “reset” of UK-EU relations this week with a double whammy. The first targeted Europe, where David Lammy, the Foreign Secretary, met his counterparts in Germany, Sweden and Poland.

Arriving in Warsaw, Mr. Lammy was edgy, brandishing his arms as if to threaten his Polish counterpart, Radoslaw Sikorski, with a bear hug. Another picture showed him at the head of a conference table with Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, with the two watching football on a laptop. The message from Labor was clear: the Europhiles, or “adults”, as some of the British commentary calls them, are back.

Labour’s second campaign was aimed at the British public. As Mr Lammy toured Europe, the new Prime Minister declared, with a hint of Trump’s danger: “I think we can get a much better deal than Boris Johnson’s botched deal in the UK.”

It remains to be seen how Sir Keir intends to achieve this. But the main obstacles to a “better” deal from 2020 have not changed: Brussels still wants more control over the UK’s sovereign affairs, including its borders, than the British people are willing to give up .

This is where the two campaigns could collide. Sir Keir said this week that he wants to negotiate a deal to replace the Dublin Agreement, a pre-Brexit mutual migrant return agreement between the UK and the EU. As part of this deal, Britain will request access to Eurodac, the EU’s fingerprint database of migrants, in exchange for potentially accepting migrants from Europe with family ties to the UK. The British border force could use this data to speed up the processing of asylum applications by rejecting those already rejected from Europe on the same grounds.

However, the response from officials in Brussels was calmer than Sir Keir had expected. “The big question is what’s in it for us?” one EU diplomat told this paper. Brussels is concerned that the UK could use the information as a “Trojan horse” to try to return migrants to the EU countries they came from. Indeed, the data would be useless if Britain was unable to remove any migrants as a result.

But try as we might, Britain has no leverage to force EU member states to accept returns based on Eurodac data. The EU has so far proven to be a public shaming of sticking to its own rules and sending migrants back to their original country of asylum, particularly those coming to the UK from France. The only other option would be to appeal to the migrants’ countries of origin to take back failed asylum seekers, but this has not worked either, as the courts often consider the these countries are unsafe (if there is only a safe country in Africa, say. were they willing to take them?).

EU diplomats said The IS telegraph that Brussels would probably demand a wider return agreement in return for access to Eurodac – perhaps drawing the UK into the EU’s quota system to share the burden of migrants among member states. Sir Keir took off his pro-EU hat to pull himself back into the Union Jack, and put the idea in high gear – saying any return deal would only apply to family reunification.

It is worth noting that even this more limited concession could cause a glut of asylum claims in Britain, where chain migration has greatly increased the number of people in recent years. And why? Britain would only receive data on migrants from Europe if it could not deport them. ​​​​​​That would be “little more than an audit trail of failure,” as Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, pointed out in the recent EU Migration Agreement, of which Eurodac is a part.

The deal could indeed give Britain a Trojan Horse. By relying on Eurodac data in our asylum process, it could rely on the goodwill of Brussels to function. For those old enough to remember how the EU acted during the pandemic, when it threatened to expropriate Britain’s factories producing Covid vaccines, this reliance may have seemed inadvisable. It is also unnecessary, as migrants who come to Britain illegally should not be eligible for asylum, and the need for further investigation – with the right political will – could stop it.

The few immigration success stories on the Continent suggest that the only way for Britain to regain control of its borders is to be self-reliant: Denmark implemented its asylum laws and the the number of people; Poland built border fences that kept migrants out; Greece and Belgium blocked crossings by turning migrant boats away at sea.

All these methods reduced the numbers and, significantly, they were not only carried out independently of the EU – but were carried out despite strong petitions from Brussels. Britain should join the club and use the natural advantages it is given as an island to be, as much as possible, autonomous in immigration.

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