France’s Home Secretary canceled his weekend talks with Priti Patel to protest Boris Johnson’s letter calling on the French to take back Channel migrants.
Gérald Darmanin said he was “disappointed” by the Prime Minister’s letter to President Emmanuel Macron who also proposed joint Anglo-French air, land and sea patrols after the death of 27 migrants when their boat capsized off Calais on Wednesday.
The interior minister was due to meet Darmanin on Sunday with her counterparts from other EU countries affected by the migrant crisis, including Belgium and the Netherlands, to discuss strategies to prevent further tragedies.
However, in a message to Ms Patel, Mr Darmanin told her that Johnson’s letter suggesting that France take back migrants crossing the Channel was a “disappointment”.
He added: “Making it public made things even worse. So I have to cancel our meeting in Calais on Sunday.”
His move represents a blow to attempts to establish closer cooperation on the Channel migrant amid lingering Anglo-French tensions over Brexit, fishing rights and the recent Australia nuclear submarine pact. United Kingdom-United States.
Emmanuel Macron, the French President, Mr Johnson urged on a call Wednesday evening “to refrain from exploiting a tragic situation for political ends”, according to a reading from the Élysée Palace.
Hours earlier, Mr Johnson had called on France to ‘step up’ and do more with the UK to stop small boats, saying ‘we have had difficulty persuading some of our partners, especially the French , to do things in a way that we think the situation deserves ”.
In his letter released Thursday evening, Mr Johnson urged President Macron to negotiate a ‘return agreement’ that would allow the UK to return migrants to France, with London in return welcoming more migrant children with family ties British.
Downing Street sees the pact as the best long-term solution to the growing problem with boat crossings, as it would undermine smugglers promising a route to the UK.
A high-ranking government source said: “A returns deal would be the greatest deterrent against these crimes. If migrants who cross the Channel illegally are returned to France, it will totally destroy the smuggling gangs.”
The EU has rejected a return deal in Brexit talks and the UK has so far struggled to strike a new deal with the EU or bilateral deals with France or any other country European outside Albania.
In his letter, Mr Johnson also formally offered hundreds of UK staff to prevent desperate migrants from taking the water.
He suggested there could be British boots on the north coast of France as early as Monday in an attempt to prevent a repeat of Wednesday’s tragedy.
France has so far fiercely resisted any attempt to allow the British police to operate on its soil, claiming that this would violate French sovereignty
In his letter, the prime minister also offered to pay private security personnel to carry out joint patrols if border forces personnel are deemed unacceptable.
He proposed joint maritime patrols, which could see border guards operating in French waters.
He also proposed greater intelligence sharing and the use of more advanced technologies, including ground sensors and radars to detect migrants before they leave France.