European interior ministers to meet in Calais, but UK uninvited after Boris Johnson letter sparks French anger
The home secretary has warned of the potential for “even worse scenes” in the Channel this winter if Europe fails to cooperate over the migrant crisis after having her invitation withdrawn from talks.
Priti Patel called on her European counterparts to “step up, take responsibility, and work together” to deal with the swelling issue, despite being excluded from a meeting on Sunday over the matter with those colleagues.
her comments come after the capsizing in the Channel that claimed the lives of 27 people on Wednesday – the highest death toll on record in the current crisis – including an expectant mother, children and a 24-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iraq trying to reunite with her fiancé.
Interior ministers from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the European Commission are to meet in Calais on Sunday to discuss small boat crossings.
Emmanuel Macron reacted with fury to Boris Johnson’s publication of a letter making a series of demands on France, accusing him of not being “serious” about finding solutions and dramatically cancelling the invitation for home secretary to come to Paris for the talks.
Ms Patel said on Thursday that conversations with her French counterpart, Gerald Darmanin, had been “constructive” , though she did not repeat the term about their talks on Friday as the diplomatic row came to head.
“As I have said time and time again, there is no quick fix, no silver bullet. The UK cannot tackle this issue alone, and across Europe we all need to step up, take responsibility, and work together in a time of crisis,” she said in a statement.
“We will not shy away from the challenge we face, and next week I will continue to push for greater co-operation with European partners because a failure to do so could result in even worse scenes in the freezing water during the coming winter months.”
The prime minister tweeted a letter to Mr Macron outlining his call for talks to begin on a bilateral returns agreement, saying it could have “an immediate and significant impact” on attempts to cross the Channel, after the UK left a EU returns agreement as a result of Brexit.
Mr Johnson also reiterated a call for combined UK-French patrols by border officials along French beaches to stop boats leaving, a solution long-resisted by Paris.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal rejected the proposal as “clearly not what we need to solve this problem” as he said the Prime Minister’s letter “doesn’t correspond at all” with discussions Mr Johnson and Mr Macron had on Wednesday.
“We are sick of double-speak,” he added, and said Mr Johnson’s decision to post his letter on his Twitter feed suggested he was “not serious”.