European nations meet to discuss migrant crisis with Patel excluded from talks

European interior ministers to meet in Calais, but UK uninvited after Boris Johnson letter sparks French anger

Emily Atkinson
Sunday 28 November 2021 12:37
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<p>Home Secretary Priti Patel making a Statement on the 'Small boats incident in the Channel', in the House of Commons in London on November 25, 2021.</p>

Home Secretary Priti Patel making a Statement on the 'Small boats incident in the Channel', in the House of Commons in London on November 25, 2021.

Interior ministers from across Europe are due to meet in Calais on Sunday to discuss the migrant crisis without Priti Patel, after her invite to the talks was rescinded.

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 cancelled the invitation for home secretary to come to the summit.

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.

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 when they spoke 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”.

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.”

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.

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.

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