France’s Europe minister has accused the UK of practicing an economic model that allows for “quasi-modern slavery,” as Paris called on London to change its policy on legal migration to prevent more Channel crossings.

France has hit back at the UK over the ongoing English Channel crossing row after London urged Paris to do more to prevent migrants casting off from its shores. Speaking on Monday to France Inter TV, French Europe Minister Clement Beaune claimed that Britain’s economic model allows for the exploitation of illegal workers. 

“There is – let’s say it – an economic model of, sometimes, quasi-modern slavery or at least of illegal work that is very strong,” the outspoken politician stated, adding that the exploitation of illegal workers “is more prevalent in the UK than [in France] because there are less checks.”

Beaune said the UK needs to introduce more checks as well as measures to create a “more humane, more compliant labor market regulation.” Unless this happens, he argued, there will still be a draw for illegal migration.  “We’re asking the British to change their framework,” he added. 

Speaking at the same time, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told BFMTV that the issue of Channel crossings is “first and foremost an English issue.” He said Britain needed to create more mechanisms for legal immigration. Migrants are choosing the risky path “because there is no legal path for immigrants to go to the UK… and because it’s possible to work without an ID card in England,” he noted. 

Reiterating Beaune’s remarks, he claimed Britain’s economic policy was a driver of illegal immigration.  “One of the engines of the English economic policy – not all of it, obviously – is to employ workers illegally,” he stated.

Britain and France have engaged in an ongoing war of words over the migrant crisis. Thousands of people have crossed from France to the UK this year in the hope of finding a better life.