France scraps migrant talks with U.K. after ‘unacceptable’ letter

Troubled waters: French fishing boats blocking the entrance to the port of Saint-Malo on Friday.   | Photo Credit: BERNARD BARRON

France on Friday scrapped planned talks with the U.K. about migrant crossings after an “unacceptable” letter from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pushing relations to new lows after 27 people died in the Channel.

The anger in Paris was sparked by Mr. Johnson’s decision to send a letter to Mr. Macron on Thursday evening proposing ways to stop migrants crossing from France to Britain, then publishing it in full on his Twitter account.

“I am surprised by methods when they are not serious. One leader does not communicate with another on these questions on Twitter, by public letter... No, No,” Mr. Macron told a press conference in Rome.

Relations between the two neighbours were already seen as their most tense in decades following a series of disputes over Brexit, but the personal criticism of Johnson represents a further turn for the worse.

Analysts say the lack of trust and goodwill will make it more difficult to mount a coordinated response to the growing numbers of people seeking to cross the narrow but treacherous waterway separating the countries.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin cancelled planned talks with his British counterpart Priti Patel, informing her that she was no longer invited to talks at the weekend with other European Ministers.

In a message seen by AFP, Mr. Darmanin told Ms. Patel the letter was a “disappointment” and “making it public made it even worse. I therefore need to cancel our meeting in Calais on Sunday.”


“We consider the British Prime Minister’s public letter to be unacceptable and contrary to the discussions we had with our counterparts,” added a French source close to Mr. Darmanin, asking not to be named.

Mr. Johnson wrote that he had “long been profoundly concerned” about a tragedy in the Channel and “such a catastrophe has now happened” following an accident on Wednesday that saw 27 people drown when their inflatable boat sank.

As well as reiterating a request to send British security forces to France for joint patrols — a sensitive issue for Mr. Macron.

Mr. Macron also asked France to immediately start taking back all migrants who land in England.

The meeting is now set to go ahead without any U.K. presence, prompting London to demand France reconsider the snub.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 12:11:59 PM |

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