A veteran Tory MP has come up with an unusual solution to the rise in migrants crossing the English Channel from France to the mainland UK: take back Calais.
Sir Edward Leigh took to Twitter to air his proposal following a growing panic over more than 4,000 migrants making the dangerous voyage across the world’s busiest shipping lane this year.
More migrants have arrived in the UK on Wednesday – the ninth day in a row – despite the UK government deploying the navy. Critics have pointed out how the UK government hasn’t resettled any refugees since March.
Now Sir Edward, an MP since 1983, suggested returning the English and French borders to their late-16th century alignment.
He tweeted: “Problem with cross-Channel migrants? We should never have lost Calais in 1588. Why not take it back?”
But perhaps anticipating a backlash, he added: “On second thoughts, cheaper to pay the French a few million to stop (the migrants) on the beaches.”
Problem with cross-Channel migrants?— Sir Edward Leigh MP (@EdwardLeighMP) August 10, 2020
We should never have lost Calais in 1558. Why not take it back?
On second thoughts, cheaper to pay the French a few million to stop them on the beaches. pic.twitter.com/lana4SjEbj
Calais was lost to France under the rule of Mary I in 1558, after 200 years of English rule.
Sir Edward was probably referring to an unverified report suggesting France is demanding £30m from Britain to address the crossings properly.
In any case, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner was among those on social media to raise an eyebrow at the Tory grandee’s suggestion.
I often say some Tory MPs live in the past but 1558? “We should never have lost Calais in 1558, Why not take it back”? 😳😳😳😩 https://t.co/tjrvmJ26eP— 🌈 Angela Rayner 🌈 (@AngelaRayner) August 12, 2020
Why stop at Calais? After all Her Majesty is still Duke of Normandy. These Tories really should aim higher!— Andrew Gwynne MP (@GwynneMP) August 12, 2020
If he actually knew his history (or Wikipedia) he’d know under the Treaty of Troyes the French paid 120,000 crowns to the English for ownership of Calais. But we can’t let facts get in the way of demonising migrants can we!!!— Jason Edge (@jasonedge1) August 12, 2020
I though the whole point of brexit was to stop paying Europe and to take control of our own borders?— 🏳️🌈🆃🅸🆉🆁🅷🅴🅰🅳🏳️🌈 (@TizRheaD) August 12, 2020
What a legacy to create for yourself with one tweet.— Prof Tanja Bueltmann (@cliodiaspora) August 12, 2020
Meanwhile, the mayor of Calais has said sending the navy into the English Channel to deal with migrant crossings is a “declaration of maritime war”.
Natacha Bouchart said that the British government must take responsibility and called on Priti Patel’s French counterpart to push them on the issue.
More migrants wearing face masks and orange life-jackets were seen coming into Dover port aboard Border Force vessels on Wednesday.
Border Force and the RNLI continued to be active in the English Channel as they responded to attempted migrant crossings.
It comes after government ministers entered a war of words with ice-cream maker Ben and Jerry’s.
Immigration minister Chris Philp told the creators of Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Baked Alaska to “stick to ice cream” after they tweeted about migrant crossings. A source close to home secretary Priti Patel branded the ice-cream manufacturer’s product “overpriced junk food”.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.