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U.K. PM and French president agree on migration deal

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron met on Friday with the stated goal of rebuilding ties after years of bickering over Brexit. The two leaders announced that the U.K. will pay France GBP 480 million (EUR 543 million or USD 577 million) over three years to help curb migrants from traveling in small boats across the Channel, and help to fund enhanced patrols, the use of drones plus a detention center.

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Sunak has made stopping boat arrivals one of his five priorities after the number of migrants arriving on the south coast of England soared to more than 45,000 last year, up 500 percent in the last two years.

As part of the new deal, Britain will help fund a detention center in France while Paris will deploy more French personnel and enhanced technology to patrol its beaches. Officers from both countries will also look to work with countries along the routes favored by people traffickers.

The funding package will be paid in installments, with the French also contributing significantly more funding, they said.

“Emmanuel and I share the same beliefs,” Sunak said. “Criminal gangs should not get to decide who comes to our country. Within weeks of my coming into office, we agreed our largest ever small boats deal and today we’ve taken our cooperation to an unprecedented level to tackle this shared challenge.”

Ties between the two countries have often been rocky since Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016 but were fortified by both countries’ support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.

Contrary to recent mudslinging, Macron welcomed Sunak at the Élysée Palace and the two greeted each other with smiles and mutual back-slapping.

“It is time for a new start,” Macron said.

The two former investment bankers, accompanied by seven ministers on each side, moreover met with business leaders from both countries.

Sunak, who is Britain’s prime minister as of October, is hoping to capitalize on the renewed goodwill with France and the wider European Union after he struck the Windsor Framework, a new agreement with the bloc aimed at fixing problems with Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements.

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