After the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued an open letter to President Macron, France withdrew its invitation to the British Home Secretary Priti Patel to participate in the immigration crisis negotiations.
A senior French official said on Friday: “Priti Patel is no longer invited to participate in inter-ministerial meetings with France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission on Sunday.”
The official described the letter as “unacceptable and contrary to our discussion.”
Britain and France have been trying to coordinate their response to the deaths of 27 migrants on Wednesday who drowned while trying to cross the English Channel from France.
The letter called on France and Britain to conduct reciprocal maritime patrols in each other’s territorial waters and called for the return of thousands of migrants who had arrived on the coast of Britain to France.
Johnson wrote on Thursday night: “If those who arrive in this country return quickly, people’s motivation to hand their lives into the hands of human traffickers will be greatly reduced.”
French officials complained that the British government blamed Macron for domestic political reasons, including issues related to Brexit. British officials in turn stated that Macron is in a difficult situation because he will run for re-election in April and has been criticized by opponents of French nationalism.
The official said on Friday that Paris opposed the content of Johnson’s letter and the public facts in the UK.
After the tragedy on Wednesday, the Elysée Palace stated that Macron told Johnson that Britain and France share common responsibility for immigration issues. “He hopes that Britain will fully cooperate and avoid using the tragedy for political purposes”.
On Friday morning, the UK Home Office did not immediately respond to the withdrawal of the invitation. But Johnson suggested that the two countries sign a bilateral agreement to repatriate asylum-seekers who arrived in the UK to France. Johnson called this in a Twitter post on Thursday night as the “biggest step” the two countries could take to prevent the secret crossing. A highly sensitive topic for the French side.
France has consistently rejected Britain’s efforts to negotiate a bilateral return agreement, insisting that the process needs to be managed through an agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
An agreement is needed to resolve the problems caused by the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Dublin Convention on December 31 last year. This is an agreement between European countries that allows asylum seekers to return to safe countries through which they seek asylum elsewhere. The convention also provides for the reunification of families stranded in different countries.
On Thursday morning, British Immigration Minister Kevin Foster claimed to the BBC that the United Kingdom had proposed bilateral agreements with a single country and an agreement with the entire trade union during the Brexit negotiations, but was rejected.