France on Friday suspended planned talks with Britain on migrant passengers in anger following a letter from the British Prime Minister regarding the crisis, which pushed relations to new lows after 27 people died in the channel this week.
Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin told Britain’s counterpart Priti Patel that she was no longer invited to talk this weekend about the migrant crisis in the channel with other European ministers.
The meeting was set to take place without any British presence, prompting London to demand that France reconsider its rejection.
The quarrel puts London and Paris in conflict as they search for a coordinated response to the worst migrant tragedy on the Channel.
It has added a number of problems after Brexit between Britain and France, with French fishermen on Friday due to a blockade of the canal’s ferry ports and stopping goods entering the canal tunnel in protest of fishing licenses.
In a statement seen by AFP, Darmanin told Patel that the letter from Johnson to President Emmanuel Macron in which he suggested that France take back migrants crossing the canal was a “disappointment”.
Referring to Johnson’s posting of the letter on social media, he added: “Making it public made it even worse. I therefore have to cancel our meeting in Calais on Sunday.”
A source close to Darmanin told AFP that Sunday’s meeting would continue with ministers from other European countries, but added that Patel was no longer invited after Johnson’s letter.
“We believe that the British Prime Minister’s public letter is unacceptable and contradicts the discussions we have had with our counterparts,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
“Therefore, Priti Patel is no longer invited to the inter-ministerial meeting on Sunday, which is being held in the format of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission.”
In Britain, Transport Minister Grant Shapps asked Paris to “reconsider”.
“It’s in our interest. It’s in their interests,” he told the BBC.
Speaking to BFM-TV, government spokesman Gabriel Attal criticized the letter as “poor” and added that France was “tired of (Britain) speaking from both sides of the mouth” in discussions on the issue.
Johnson wrote to Macron on Thursday, asking France to immediately begin taking back all migrants landing in England after crossing the Channel.
Taking back migrants “would significantly reduce – if not stop – the intersections, save thousands of lives by fundamentally breaking the business model of the criminal gangs” behind the human trafficking, he said.
Johnson’s letter also identified areas for greater cooperation with France, and suggested joint border patrols, air surveillance and intelligence sharing.
Seventeen men, seven women and three minors died on Wednesday when their inflatable boat lost air and took on water outside the northern port of Calais on Wednesday. A preliminary investigation into the killings has been opened.
Five suspected traffickers accused of being directly connected to the convicted crossing have been arrested.
Darmanin said only two survivors, an Iraqi and a Somali, had been found and that they were recovering from extreme hypothermia and would eventually be questioned.
Northern France will also face protests later on Friday in the separate issue of martial law.
According to an agreement between the UK and the EU at the end of last year, European fishing vessels can continue to operate in British waters if they can prove that they have been there before.
But Paris says dozens of French boats have had their applications for fishing in Britain’s rich waters rejected, an assessment that has been strongly questioned by London.
Dozens of French fishing boats will block UK ferries at three French Channel ports – Saint-Malo, Ouistreham and Calais – from noon (1100 GMT).
In the afternoon, the fishermen will try to block the freight trucks’ access to the freight terminal in the canal tunnel from 14:00 to 16:00 (1300 GMT to 1500 GMT).
“We do not want dividends, we just want our licenses back. Britain must follow the agreement after Brexit. Too many fishermen are still in the dark,” said Gerard Romiti, chairman of the French National Fisheries Committee (CNPMEM), who described the action as a “warning shot”. “.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)