France cancels important talks with Britain following Boris Johnson’s letter on migrant crisis


The diplomatic crisis triggered by the drowning of 27 migrants in the Channel escalated on Friday when France told Priti Patel that she was “no longer invited” to Paris for emergency negotiations.

French ministers reacted angrily to a public letter issued by Boris Johnson, outlining five steps he believes both sides should take to tackle the situation.

In his letter, the prime minister said the two countries should “go further and faster together” to deal with the crisis with people trying to reach Britain in small boats.

The interior minister was due to arrive in the country on Sunday to speak with his French counterpart Gerald Darmanin, the interior minister, in Paris.

But a statement issued by the Home Office on Friday said: “We consider the British Prime Minister’s public letter unacceptable and contrary to our discussions between counterparties.

“Therefore, Priti Patel is no longer invited on Sunday to the inter-ministerial meeting, the format of which will be: France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission.”

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Johnson’s communication methods and told a press briefing: “We do not communicate from one leader to another about these issues using tweets and letters that we publish.

“We are not whistleblowers.”

Seventeen men, seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children died when their little dingy capsized off Calais.

In his letter, Mr Johnson outlined the five steps he wanted to see taken to avoid further tragedies, including the introduction of joint Anglo-French patrols on French beaches.

He wrote: “An agreement with France to take back migrants crossing the Channel through this dangerous route would have an immediate and significant impact.”

He also suggested that the deal would be in France’s interest by breaking the business model of criminal gangs operating human trafficking from Normandy.

Under Mr Johnson’s proposal:

  • Joint patrols would prevent more boats from leaving French beaches.
  • Advanced technology such as sensors and radar will be deployed to track migrants and human trafficking gangs.
  • There would be joint or reciprocal maritime patrols in each other’s territorial waters and airborne surveillance of manned flights and drones.
  • The work of the Joint Intelligence Cell would be enhanced with better real-time intelligence sharing to deliver more arrests and prosecutions on both sides of the channel.
  • A bilateral return agreement with France will be worked on immediately, to allow migrants to be sent back across the Channel, in parallel with negotiations to establish a return agreement between the UK and the EU.

Speaking earlier this week during a visit to Croatia, Mr Macron said cooperation and not confrontation was the key to resolving the crisis.

“We will ask for extra help from the British because all these men and these women do not want asylum in France,” he said.

“We’re telling them they’re obviously capable of doing that, and there are centers in Calais and Dunkirk where they can go, but we’ll reinforce actually rescuing them at sea.”

The French move has marked a sharp deterioration in relations between the two countries, which have already been strained by the crisis in the Channel.

After the consultation negotiations were interrupted, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that “the only way we can resolve this is to work together”.

“I saw the news coming through and we will definitely talk to our French neighbors and friends,” he told Times Radio.

“I can not think of why someone does not want to set up a common intelligence cell so that we can work closer together in real time, and I very much hope that we find a way to ensure that this can be properly discussed. It can not be resolved. “unless we talk.”


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