Alain Juppe, who is bookies’ favourite to succeed Francois Hollande in next year’s election, said the border should be pushed back to the British side of the Channel where the UK should deal with migrants seeking to enter the country.
He blamed the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which allows British officials to check passports on French soil, for the creation of the makeshift “Jungle” encampment in Calais, where thousands of would-be migrants await their chance to cross to the UK.
Speaking to a group of European newspaper,s Mr Juppe said: “We can’t tolerate what is going on in Calais. The image is disastrous for our country and there are also extremely serious economic and security consequences for the people of Calais.
“So the first thing is to denounce the Le Touquet accords. We cannot accept making the selection on French territory of people that Britain does or doesn’t want. It’s up to Britain to do that job.”
Asked whether the Anglo-French border should be pushed back to the Kent coast, he said: “Of course. Don’t tell me that it’s difficult because the British don’t want it.
“If we entered international negotiations in that spirit, there would never be any negotiations. So the debate must be opened and a new accord obtained with Britain.”
The right-of-centre former French prime minister said he “respected” the result of Britain’s referendum decision to leave the EU, adding: “Now it must be put into action quickly.”
Britain cannot be both “outside and inside” the EU, but France will want to keep “very close bilateral cooperation with the UK” after Brexit, particularly on military and defence issues, he said.