Migrants, EU referendum come to fire at France-U.K. summit

PARIS - French politicians targeted the British referendum on EU membership on Thursday, warning that leaving the bloc would give London new problems regarding migrants, banking and terrorism.

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Ahead of the first summit of the French and British leaders since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, two members of the Socialist government warned that a British departure from the European Union will make it harder to block migrants from crossing the Channel, threaten London's dominance in the financial sector and complicate security co-operation.

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 role in banking, 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.

France this week began dismantling the migrant camp in Calais, which has been a flashpoint and fed far-right sentiment in both countries, seeking to move the occupants to other sites.

Harlem Desir, the French secretary of state for European affairs, echoed Macron's concerns.

"There is no blackmail or threat, but we co-operate more easily if the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union than if it is not," he told RFI radio on Thursday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is meeting Thursday in the city of Amiens with French President Francois Hollande, has also suggested France could end its border deal with Britain if the UK votes to leave.

But Conservative lawmaker Bernard Jenkin, who wants Britain to quit the bloc, said the comments were the result of Cameron trying to get other European governments to "scare people" out of voting to leave.

He noted that France's interior minister has described opening the border with Britain as irresponsible.

"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.


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


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