James Cleverly said he wants to see 'zero' migrant boats crossing the Channel 'as soon as possible' as Britain signed a new border deal with the EU

James Cleverly today said he wants to see ‘zero’ migrant boats crossing the Channel ‘as soon as possible’ as Britain signed a new border deal with the EU.

The Home Secretary hailed a new arrangement between UK Border Force and the EU’s Frontex agency as a ‘big assistance’ in ending migrant crossings.

Mr Cleverly welcomed Brussels’ home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson to London today to witness the signing of the agreement by officials.

It will see Border Force staff co-operate more closely with their EU counterparts by exchanging intelligence and collaborating on training, new technology and operations.

Rishi Sunak has repeatedly vowed to ‘stop the boats’ since becoming Prime Minister and Mr Cleverly insisted the target is to get migrant crossings down to ‘zero’.

James Cleverly said he wants to see 'zero' migrant boats crossing the Channel 'as soon as possible' as Britain signed a new border deal with the EU

James Cleverly said he wants to see ‘zero’ migrant boats crossing the Channel ‘as soon as possible’ as Britain signed a new border deal with the EU

The Home Secretary welcomed Brussels' home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson to London to witness the signing of the agreement by officials

The Home Secretary welcomed Brussels’ home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson to London to witness the signing of the agreement by officials

Phil Douglas, director general of Border Force (left), shakes hands with Hans Leijtens, executive director of the EU's Frontex agency after signing the agreement

Phil Douglas, director general of Border Force (left), shakes hands with Hans Leijtens, executive director of the EU’s Frontex agency after signing the agreement

A man carries a child as he boards a boat on the beach of Gravelines, near Dunkirk, northern France in October, 2022, in an attempt to cross the Channel

A man carries a child as he boards a boat on the beach of Gravelines, near Dunkirk, northern France in October, 2022, in an attempt to cross the Channel

Asked how realistic that goal is this year, the Home Secretary told LBC radio: ‘That is absolutely my target. My target is to achieve zero.’

Referring to Britain’s new arrangement with Frontex, he added: ‘I want to get to zero as soon as possible.

‘The agreement that we’re signing today will be a big assistance in doing that, as will Rwanda, and as will the other things we’ve been doing.’

The Frontex deal is the latest in a series of arrangements between the UK and Europe, including an agreement reached with France last year to increase co-operation between law enforcement agencies in the two countries.

It also follows discussions between the PM and European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen, who agreed in May last year to strengthen co-operation on tackling small boats crossings.

Mr Sunak had a phone call with Ms Von der Leyen on Sunday and the pair welcomed the conclusion of the negotiations that led to the agreement being formalised today.

The UK was a member of Frontex before Brexit. But, asked whether the UK’s vote to leave the EU had left Britain’s borders insecure, Mr Cleverly replied: ‘That’s not the case at all.

‘Leaving the EU meant we were able to define our own immigration policy.

‘We are not going back into an organisation. We’re making an agreement with an organisation that we have left.’

The PM made ‘stopping the boats’ one of his five priorities for 2023. The number of people crossing the Channel in small boats last year fell from 45,755 to 29,437.

So far, 1,716 people have made the crossing this year, down from 2,720 in the same period last year.

Mr Cleverly said in a statement to mark the signing of the Border Force arrangement with Frontex: ‘This Government has a plan to break the model of the smuggling gangs, end the abuse of our asylum system and stop the boats.

‘The plan is working with crossings down by a third – but we must go further.

‘Organised immigration crime and people-smuggling are global challenges that require shared solutions and ambitions. 

‘Our landmark working arrangement between the UK and Frontex is another crucial step in tackling illegal migration, securing our borders and stopping the boats.’

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