French interior minister seeks to calm Brexit row over Calais

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 04, 2016 6:12 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Friday sought to smooth over controversial comments made by a fellow cabinet member over how thousands of migrants waiting in France could flood into Britain if it left the European Union.

Emmanuel Macron, an outspoken economy minister who sometimes irritates cabinet colleagues by speaking on matters outside his brief, told the Financial Times on Thursday that "the day this relationship unravels, migrants will no longer be in Calais".

The comments were not contradicted by President Francois Hollande when he was asked about them during an Anglo-French security summit the same day.

They were also seized upon by UK eurosceptics as being a coordinated scare tactic on behalf of the "In" camp's campaign for Britain's upcoming EU membership referendum.

"On this subject, we don't need declarations that create a buzz," Cazeneuve said on French radio on Friday.

"Because if we open the border tomorrow, what will happen? The British control their own borders and can block the arrival of migrants into Britain. They would then be sent back to France ... which would worsen the humanitarian crisis," he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has made protecting security a key argument in his campaign to keep Britain in the EU in a referendum on June 23, and has suggested that refugees living in a camp in the French town of Calais could flock to England if British voters decided to leave.

(Reporting by Michel Rose and Simon Carraud; Editing by Andrew Callus)