The Mayor of Calais has called for a more positive relationship between Kent businesses and their French counterparts.
Her comments follow the shock Brexit vote to leave the EU in June – but also the worsening problems around the ‘Jungle’ camp outside the French city as migrants make increasingly desperate attempts to enter the UK.
At a meeting with the county’s business leaders and councillors last week, Natacha Bouchart added that issues over migrant camps should not tarnish corporate partnerships across the Channel.
She admitted at the time that she would join the French hauliers’ blockade in Calais on Monday (September 5) in protest at the escalating violence and threats they face as they pass through the port – a problem which is also tarnishing the trade of French businesses.
The demonstrators want the camp to be closed completely – with speculation growing that it might be relocated to Kent. The southern section of the Jungle was razed to the ground in March.
Mme Bouchart told the meeting in Ashford: “The reason I came here today is to send a very strong message to our friends that our city is secure, it is safe and we would not like this migratory crisis to affect our will to make sure we keep the friendship between the two territories.”
Referring to a ‘golden age’ of duty-free products, she added: “We want to go back to this particular era and want to make sure we are both prosperous. I am here to let you know we are in control of the situation.
“We are holding out the hand of friendship to our UK neighbours. It is important for us that whatever the aftermath and the problems that may arise with the emergence of Brexit, we need to keep working together to develop our economies.”