British police patrol near a group of migrants from France. Picture: REUTERS
British police patrol near a group of migrants from France. Picture: REUTERS

Paris — France and Britain plan to announce a new treaty on Thursday on how to handle the thousands of migrants hoping to cross the English Channel from the northern French coast, as the two countries look to bolster relations with Brexit looming.

The new deal will "amend" the 2003 Le Touquet accord which effectively put Britain’s border on French soil at Calais, a sore point in relations between the two countries.

President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May will unveil the "new treaty" as the French leader makes his first official visit to London on Thursday for a summit meeting.

"Specific engagements" will also be announced to respond to asylum and other requests "within a few days", a source said, asking not to be named.

Britain will also commit to a "major" financial contribution as part of a "reinforcement of French-British police co-operation on border management", said the source.

The original Le Touquet text, which came into force in February 2004, implemented joint controls at coastal ports in both countries as Britain, which is not part of Europe’s Schengen visa-free zone, looked to bolster efforts to keep migrants out.

Later changes led to Britain financing some of the controls and security operations in Calais, just across the English Channel from its port in Dover.

Migrants hoping to stow away on trucks bound for Britain have long been drawn to France’s northern coast, with the squalid "Jungle" camp near Calais once housing about 10,000 people before it was bulldozed in late 2016.

French officials argue the Le Touquet deal has worsened Europe’s migrant crisis by creating a huge backflow of migrants in the area.

Macron made a renegotiation of the Le Touquet deal one of his campaign pledges.

The French-British summit will also focus on a series of measures aimed at deepening military and intelligence co-operation, and co-operation in other core matters such as climate change.