Migrants, EU referendum, top topics at France-UK summit

AP News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2016 12:44 PM
Migrants, EU referendum, top topics at France-UK summit

PARIS (AP) — French politicians pulled no punches Thursday, warning that a U.K. vote to leave the 28-nation European Union would give London new problems in the areas of migrants, banking and terrorism.

French President Francois Hollande met Thursday with British Prime Minister David Cameron in the northern city of Amiens.

"I don't want to scare anyone but tell the truth: There will be consequences if the U.K. leaves the EU," Hollande said in a joint news conference with Cameron.

A British departure would notably affect "the way we handle... immigration issues ... and the economic development between our two countries," Hollande said.

Cameron, who is leading the campaign for Britain to remain in the EU, agreed.

"When it comes to terrorism, when it comes to security, when it comes to our borders, we are better off, we are stronger inside a reformed EU," Cameron said. "We both firmly believe that our membership of the European Union allows us to amplify our strength, projecting greater power internationally, increasing the security of our citizens, and boosting the competitiveness of our economies".

The U.K. agreed to provide 17 million pounds ($24 million) this year to help France strengthen border security in the northern city of Calais, which has been a flashpoint in Europe's migration crisis.

Cameron remained unclear on whether the U.K. will allow more unaccompanied child migrants to be granted asylum, one of France's major demands. According to French authorities, hundreds of children are among the thousands of migrants stranded in a slum camp in Calais.

"If they have a family link to the U.K., then they must go there, and they must go quickly and in an efficient way," Hollande said.

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 key banking industry, 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."

Conservative lawmaker Bernard Jenkin, who wants Britain to quit the bloc, says Cameron is just trying to get other European governments to "scare people" out of voting to leave.

"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.

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Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed.