PM’s French letter sees home secretary Priti Patel disinvited to meeting about Channel crisis

#Brexit special section Daily news Downing Street Law and Justice

Boris Johnson’s tweet of his letter to the French president proposing solutions to the migrant crisis has resulted in the home secretary being disinvited to a meeting about the crisis on Sunday.

Twenty-seven people died in the channel between England and France on Wednesday trying to cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes on a dinghy in order to claim asylum in the UK.

Both London and Paris have been accused of political posturing on the issue with imminent elections in France, and immigration, borders and Brexit under increasing focus in the UK – as too, the PM’s recent performance.

In his tweet Johnson proposed five measures – including officials from both countries patrolling French beaches and a “returns” agreement- to the French president Emmanuel Macron, who in turn told the PM to “get serious” about finding solution to the migrant crisis.

Macron told a press conference in Italy that he had spoken to Johnson “in a serious way” two days ago, and commenting on the PM’s tweeted letter, said: “I am surprised by methods when they are not serious.

“We do not communicate from one leader to another on these issues by tweets and letters that we make public. We are not whistleblowers. Come on!

“Leaders communicate in a serious way to deal with serious questions between serious people. On Sunday our interior minister will meet with his EU counterparts and the European Commission.

“We will see, when it comes to the UK, how we can act effectively if they decide to be serious.”

Patel disinvited to meet French

Shortly after Macron’s statement, it was announced that UK home secretary Priti Patel has been disinvited to Sunday’s meeting with European ministers to discuss the crisis after French interior minister Gérald Darmanin wrote to tell her  the meeting will proceed without British involvement.

Darmanin informed the home secretary Johnson’s letter to Macron was a “disappointment”, adding: “Making it public made it even worse.”

Downing Street expressed surprise by the “ferocity of the French reaction”, according to the Telegraph, which reports “Number 10 figures” arguing that Johnson’s letter to Macron “had been written in a ‘constructive’ manner”.

The Independent reports Macron’s “outburst was being seen as an indication that France was not treating the issue with sufficient seriousness” and quotes a “Whitehall source”, who said: “It boils down to the question of are they really going to let people keep drowning because of a tweet?…That’s sad.”

French ask if PM regrets leaving Europe?

A spokesperson for the French government has accused Johnson of “double talk” with their fury fired by the prime minister using Twitter to negotiate with France, and for proposing a “returns agreement” to let the UK return people to France – a power the UK had until Brexit.

The French government’s official spokesperson Briel Attal questioned if Johnson “was regretting leaving Europe”.

He told BFM TV the PM’s letter was “mediocre” and disrespectful of “all the work that has been done by our coastguards, police, gendarmes and lifeboat crews.”

The letter “basically proposes a ‘relocation’ agreement,” continued Attal, which, he said “is clearly not what’s needed to solve this problem.

“We’re sick and tired of this double talk and outsourcing of problems.”

Attal added: “It’s as if Boris Johnson was regretting leaving Europe, because as soon as he has a problem he considers that it is Europe’s responsibility to solve it. It doesn’t work like that – it works through cooperation.”

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