France cancels UK invitation to migrant crisis talks after Johnson letter

France has withdrawn its invitation to UK Foreign Secretary Priti Patel to participate in talks on the migrant crisis following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s public letter to President Macron.

“Priti Patel is no longer invited to Sunday’s inter-ministerial meeting that will take place with France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission,” a senior French official said on Friday.

The official described the letter as “unacceptable and contrary to our discussions”.

The UK and France have struggled to coordinate their response to the death of 27 migrants on Wednesday, people drowned trying to cross the English Channel from France.

The letter calls on France and Britain to patrol the waters of each other’s territorial waters and to allow the thousands of migrants arriving on British shores to return to France.

Johnson wrote on Thursday night: “If those who reach this country are quickly returned, the incentive for people to put their lives in the hands of traffickers will be greatly reduced.”

French officials have complained that the British government is blaming Macron, including for problems related to Brexit, for domestic political reasons. UK officials say Macron is struggling as he will campaign for re-election in April and is being criticized by French nationalist opponents.

The official on Friday said Paris objected to both the content of Johnson’s letter and its publicity by the British.

After Wednesday’s tragedy, the Elysée Palace said Macron had told Johnson that Britain and France were jointly responsible for the migrant problem and that “he expected the British to cooperate fully and not exploit a tragedy”. for political purposes”.

There was no immediate response on Friday morning from the UK Home Office regarding the withdrawal of the invitation. But Johnson’s proposal that the two countries sign a bilateral agreement to bring asylum seekers arriving in Britain back to France – what Johnson in a Twitter thread on Thursday night called “the biggest single step” the two countries have taken. What the country can do to prevent covert border crossings – has been highlighted a very sensitive topic for the French side.

France has staunchly rejected UK efforts to negotiate bilateral return arrangements, insisting that the process should be managed through an agreement between the UK and the European Union.

An agreement is needed to resolve the issues caused by the UK withdrawal on 31 December last year from Dublin Convention, an agreement between European countries that allows asylum seekers to be returned to the safe countries they have crossed on their way to seek asylum elsewhere. The conventions also provide for the reunions of families stranded in separate countries.

On Thursday morning, UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster announced to the BBC that the UK had offered both a bilateral deal with single states in the Brexit negotiations and an agreement with the union. in general but was rejected.

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