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Top Stories: Britain Will Pay France £480m To Stop Small Boats, HS2 Project Delayed Again

HS2 has already come under significant criticism for its finances (Alamy)

4 min read

Britain will pay France £480m across three years as part of an agreement to stop migrants crossing the Channel.

The agreement will see a new detention centre being set up in France, as well as more French technology and personnel being deployed in a bid to clamp down on migrants crossing the English Channel.

The funding arrangement will see the UK pay France £141m in 2023-4, £191m in 2024-5 and £209m in 2025-6. Number 10 said that France would contribute more funding. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Paris on Friday at the first Anglo-French summit for five years.

The UK government announced new plans to deter Channel crossings this week, in which anyone entering the country illegally would be detained and deported, and then banned from ever returning or claiming British citizenship. 

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told BBC Breakfast: "We are looking at ways of enhancing the cooperation we already have with the French authorities", as well as ways to "really drive those numbers (of crossings) down.”

Labour has called on Sunak to make a bilateral returns agreement with France that would allow the UK to immediately return people to France if they arrived illegally.

However, a returns deal is not expected to be reached at this summit. 

HS2 Delayed

The government has delayed major parts of the HS2 railway project, as inflation has caused soaring construction costs.

Construction of the high-speed rail line between Birmingham and Crewe will be set back another two years while key road projects will also be put on hold. 

HS2 has already come under significant criticism for its finances and for how long construction would take. 

Phase 1, connecting London with Birmingham, was expected to open between 2029 and 2033 and Phase 2a, extending the line from Birmingham to Crewe, was set for completion between 2030 and 2034, with the final Phase 2b between Crewe and Manchester estimated to finish between 2035 and 2041. 

Both Phase 2 sections are now to be delayed by another two years.

Transport secretary Mark Harper said: “The government is committed to delivering HS2 Phase 2a between Birmingham and Crewe.

“We have seen significant inflationary pressure and increased project costs, and so we will rephase construction by two years, with an aim to deliver high-speed services to Crewe and the northwest as soon as possible after accounting for the delay in construction.”

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh criticised the delays, saying: “Tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic growth are dependent on this project.

“This is the biggest project in Europe and delays pile costs up in the long-run – ministers now need to come clean on precisely how much their indecision will cost taxpayers and the North.”

Sarah Owen, another Labour MP, accused the government of attempting to “avoid scrutiny” by trying to slip out the announcement.

The delays were announced to MPs via a written ministerial statement late in the afternoon on Thursday before they returned to constituencies for the weekend, leaving little chance for MPs to challenge the decision.  

In a point of order in the Commons, Owen said: “This is an outrageous attempt to avoid scrutiny for what is a very significant announcement, which should have been made to this House first. 

“The secretary of state should have had the decency to come to this house and explain to members why they are doing this.”

Boris Johnson nominates Daily Mail chief for peerage again

Paul Dacre
Paul Dacre is one of the most powerful media executives in the country (Alamy)

Former prime minister Boris Johnson has nominated editor-in-chief of DMG Media Paul Dacre for a peerage again, despite the nomination having previously been rejected by the appointments watchdog, according to The Guardian.

Johnson has reportedly put forward the former Daily Mail editor’s name for a second time, while his honours list is already facing criticism for being too long and including his father, Stanley Johnson.

Stanley Johnson's nomination has already raised questions due to him having recently been accused of sexual harassment by senior Conservative MP Caroline Nokes. Johnson denies the allegation. 

The Times reported that Boris Johnson's nominations included up to 100 names – considerably more than either of his predecessors Theresa May or David Cameron.

Johnson has reportedly now had to reduce the number of names on the list.

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