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Illegal migration on agenda as Sunak meets Belgian PM

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo, in 10 Downing Street (Hannah McKay/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo, in 10 Downing Street (Hannah McKay/PA)

Illegal migration and law enforcement co-operation topped the agenda as Rishi Sunak held talks with his Belgian counterpart.

Rishi Sunak welcomed Alexander De Croo to Downing Street on Tuesday morning, with the Belgian Prime Minister praising the two countries as “good neighbours”.

Mr De Croo, who visited Number 10 hours after the UK and US conducted joint strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, referenced the “turbulent world” of the present day.

Prime Minister of Belgium visit to UK
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, with the prime minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo (Hannah McKay/PA)

The pair also met with a backdrop of the conflict in Gaza and ongoing war in Ukraine.

In a readout of the meeting, a Downing Street spokesman said the two men “agreed on the vital importance of ending the cruel and dangerous people-smuggling trade, including in container trucks and small boats”.

He said Mr Sunak “welcomed the groundbreaking new UK-Belgium Law Enforcement Co-operation Agreement, which is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks”.

“The first-of-its-kind agreement will enhance intelligence sharing and surveillance capabilities and will see UK law enforcement officials forward-deployed to Belgium to tackle shared threats, including in counter-people-smuggling operations.

“The leaders also discussed the value of partnerships with third countries, both to find solutions to illegal migration and to address the poverty and instability that pushes people into the arms of people smugglers.”

Mr Sunak had earlier praised the “very close partnership” between the two countries and said the two leaders would discuss efforts to tackle illegal migration.

“Belgium and the UK have always had a very close partnership and friendship,” he said.

“I know we’ll talk today about our efforts to combat the criminal gangs who are facilitating illegal migration and strengthening our co-operation to break those gangs.”

He said that the situation in Ukraine, as well as energy security, was also a shared interest.

Mr De Croo told Mr Sunak: “We’re good neighbours, we’re allies. And I think in a turbulent world more than ever, countries like the UK and Belgium need to align, need to work together.”