Emmanuel Macron, the French presidential favourite, says he will renegotiate France’s border agreement with the UK, raising the prospect of a “Jungle” refugee camp being set up in Kent.
Mr Macron, who will go head to head against Marine Le Pen in the final round of the election next month, said the Le Touquet treaty, under which British border guards operate in Calais, should be “back on the table”.
David Cameron warned last year that if the British border at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel in Calais was removed after Brexit, refugees would relocate to Britain.
Mr Macron said: “I want to put the Le Touquet border deal back on the table. It must be renegotiated, especially the parts that deal with the fate of isolated child migrants.”
In an interview with the French TV channel TF1, he added: “There is no easy solution to the migrant crisis. If there was one, it would have been found.”
The Le Touquet treaty, signed in 2003 by Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac, is a bilateral deal that allowed each country to set up border controls in each other’s Channel ports, enabling Britain to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the Channel.
For years, Calais has become home to thousands of refugees living in makeshift camps and making repeated attempts to reach the UK. If the treaty was ripped up, illegal immigrants would have to be dealt with on arrival in the UK instead.
A Conservative spokesman said: “This just shows that we need the strong and stable leadership of Theresa May and why voters need to give her the best possible hand to negotiate in Europe.
“We have always been very clear that protecting and enhancing the shared border between the UK and France at Calais is in both the UK and France’s best interests. By contrast Jeremy Corbyn is not strong enough to keep our borders secure.”