Harman: France should compensate British hauliers and holidaymakers
France should pay compensation to British holidaymakers and haulage companies for the disruption caused by the migrant crisis and wildcat strikes, Harriet Harman has said in a letter to .
Labour’s interim leader said the prime minister had been inflaming the crisis with his divisive language but had refused all serious attempts at tackling the situation, with the costs now being borne by British businesses and families.
“It is wrong for UK businesses and families to face these costs given border security failures in ,” Harman wrote. “Your discussions with the French government should therefore include a request for compensation backed up by any diplomatic pressure that may become necessary. Compensation should cover all losses.”
On Friday, Cameron and the French president, François Hollande discussed the crisis by phone, with the British government in a move that chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, Richard Burnett, called a “sticking plaster”.
But the call made no mention of any compensation to businesses or holidaymakers for the costs of the crisis. The Freight Association estimates it is costing lorry firms £700,000 a day while Kent police impose Operation Stack – emergency measures to park lorries on the M20 while there are severe delays on the French side of the English Channel.
Kent businesses and tourists attractions have seen a over the crucial summer period.
Cameron also said that defence ministry land would be used to park trucks waiting to cross to Calais, to avoid having to close the motorway.
Paying compensation is not unprecedented, Harman said, pointing out that UK hauliers received money after industrial action in 1996. “Over the last few days, your approach has been devoid of any serious solution to the crisis,” she said. “You have failed to initiate any diplomatic pressure on the French government to assess asylum claims and make sure proper immigration procedures are followed.”
Cameron had instead managed to “inflame the situation with incendiary and divisive language, which will serve only to escalate the problem,” Harman said, referring to criticism of the prime minister on Friday by rights groups who said his trying to reach Britain was dehumanising.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said on Friday: “The prime minister updated the president on the actions he had set in train earlier today following the meeting of Cobra and thanked the president for the work the French authorities were also undertaking.
“Both leaders agreed on the need to work with Eurotunnel to monitor and secure the area and for respective ministers to continue discussions over the coming days to implement additional measures that could further improve the situation on the ground.”
French police said there had been a significant drop in the number of migrants attempting to reach the Channel tunnel to cross through to the UK aboard lorries and trains, but that 300 had made the two-hour walk from the makeshift to attempt to cross on Friday night. On previous nights this week, police had seen more than 2,000 attempts to reach the tunnel.
A spokesman for Eurotunnel said there was “much less disruption” since 120 extra French police had been sent to bolster security at the site.
One 26-year-old Sudanese man is known to have died in the early hours of Wednesday after being crushed by a lorry.
To add to pressure on police, hundreds of French sailors , burning tyres to prevent access to the port, causing chaos for holidaymakers at peak season. The SCOP SeaFrance workers are objecting to plans to sell off their ferries to a Danish firm.
James Hookham, deputy chief executive of the Freight Transport Association, has called for Britain to press France to make the port of Calais a “strike-free zone”. He said: “The wheels really came off the wagon two weeks ago because the ferry workers went on strike.”