Should the military patrol the English Channel?
August 13th, 2020, Connor Ibbetson

Should the military patrol the English Channel?

The majority of Brits see illegal entry into the UK via the English Channel as a serious issue

Newsfeeds have been inundated with images of migrants and refugees making the dangerous journey across the English Channel from France to the UK. To crack down on the illegal crossings, the Home Office has already deployed RAF surveillance aircraft to assist the UK Border Force. But how serious of an issue do Brits think it is?

Overall, three-quarters (73%) of Brits think illegal entry to the UK via the channel is a serious issue – 45% say it is a very serious issue and 28% say the issue is somewhat serious. A fifth (21%) say the issue is not serious, with 13% who say the issue is not very serious alongside 8% who say the issue is not serious at all.


Along political lines, the majority (69%) of Tory voters say the crossings are a very serious issue, with another 28% saying the issue is somewhat serious – for an overall total of 97% of Conservative voters who say that migrants and refugees entering the UK via small boats on the English Channel is a serious issue.

Labour voters are split on the issue: 49% and 45% think the issue is serious and not serious respectively. Around a fifth (22%) think the issue is very serious and a quarter (27%) say it’s somewhat serious. Another 27% say the issue is not very serious, and 18% of Labour voters say the channel crossings are not a serious issue at all.

Liberal Democrats are more likely to think the issue is serious than Labour voters, but not to the same extent as Conservative voters. Approaching two thirds (64%) of those who backed the Lib Dems at the last election say illegal entry to the UK via the channel is a serious issue, compared to 32% who say it is not.

Do voters support military intervention in securing the border?

It has already been confirmed that the Home Office has seconded RAF planes and personnel, including a P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft, to assist the UK Border Force in patrolling the English Channel. An additional request has also been reportedly made to the Royal Navy for further assistance in preventing the illegal crossings.

Overall, 69% of Brits say that it’s acceptable for the Home Office to use RAF planes and personnel to assist the Border Force, while 71% say it’s acceptable to use Royal Navy ships and sailors to patrol the border in the English Channel to prevent illegal crossings.


Among voters, those who voted Conservative are most likely to support use of military assets in the English Channel, with 93% saying it’s acceptable to use both RAF and Royal Navy equipment and personnel to prevent migrants crossing the English Channel.

Again, Labour voters are split on the issue: 43% and 45% say that use of RAF and Royal Navy assets respectively is acceptable to stop illegal crossings of the Channel. Lib Dems are more likely to be in favour, with 63% saying use of the RAF is acceptable and 69% saying use of the Royal Navy is acceptable to secure and patrol the channel with the UK Border Force.

Over half of Remain voters (57% and 59%) say using the RAF and Royal Navy respectively is acceptable, compared to 89% and 90% of Leave voters who say the same.

While RAF search and rescue surveillance aircraft are already in the air, the Royal Navy has yet to deploy vessels to the English Channel. Whether it does or not, it is clear that the majority of the British public would support the continued use of both branches of the military to secure the border.

See full results here