Brussels has ruled out a deal which would allow Channel migrants to be sent back to France, leaked documents show.
Official records indicate the refusal came from one of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen‘s most trusted aides.
German politician Bjoern Siebert told senior British officials the bloc will refuse to consider signing a post-Brexit ‘returns agreement’, the Mail can disclose today.
Mr Siebert, who is Mrs von der Leyen’s head of cabinet, delivered the defiant rejection at a face-to-face meeting with the Cabinet Office’s National Security Adviser Sir Tim Barrow earlier this year, the papers show.
It means Britain will remain unable to return small boat migrants to France for the foreseeable future.
The Daily Mail has seen an internal British government memo which describes the outcome of the meeting between Sir Tim and Mr Siebert. It says of the EU official: ‘He stressed that the Commission is not open to a UK-EU readmissions agreement.’
Both sides did agree to co-operate on other immigration measures, however, including moves to combat trafficking gangs, according to the memo, which was sent to a number of government departments. Last night Brussels disputed the version of events set out in the leaked memo. ‘Mr Siebert never said what it is claimed,’ a Commission spokesman said.
French ministers insist the European Union’s border arrangements can only be decided by Brussels – something Britain regards as a moot point. If Channel migrants cannot be removed to France, the Home Office’s options are limited to sending them to their home nation – which in many cases leads to human rights challenges – or to a safe third country such as Rwanda.
However, the Government’s asylum deal with Rwanda remains in legal limbo after it was declared unlawful on human rights grounds by the Court of Appeal in June.
Rishi Sunak has repeatedly spoken of his desire to secure closer co-operation with Europe on the Channel crisis.
Its refusal to consider a returns agreement intensified pressure from within the Conservative party for Britain to leave the European Human Rights Convention.