French Lash Out over Migrant Crisis Letter, ‘Priti Patel Is No Longer Invited’

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures during a meeeting as part of the "Great National Debate" on March 7, 2019, in Greoux-les-Bains, southeastern France. (Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images)
Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images

French officials have lashed out after an open letter to President Macron regarding the Channel Migrant Crisis was published online, disinviting British Home Secretary Priti Patel from scheduled talks in an act of apparent revenge.

The French government has formally disinvited British Home Secretary Priti Patel from a summit on Sunday regarding the ongoing Channel migrant crisis after Prime Minister Boris Johnson published an open letter to French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter.

Outlining five possible steps Mr Johnson would like for both parties to consider, the letter calls for an agreement to be made between the two countries to “allow all illegal migrants who cross the Channel to be returned”.

The letter also sees the prime minister paying “tribute to” French emergency services for their work over the crisis, and also praises the fact that the British home secretary had been invited to the multilateral talks on Sunday in Calais with the aim of addressing the crisis.

However, this invitation has since been rescinded over the letter, with President Macron demanding the British Government get “serious”.

“The only answer is a serious cooperation…I am surprised by the methods when they’re not serious,” stated President Macron, per a translation offered by BBC Newsnight‘s Lewis Goodall. “We don’t communicate from one leader to another on these subjects like this via tweets or by making letters public.”

The president goes on to say that he will work with the British “when they decide to be serious about it”.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal also slammed the letter, calling it “indigent in substance and totally out of place”.

“It is fundamentally indigent because it does not respect all the work of our coast guards, our police officers, our gendarmes, our rescuers at sea who rescued 7,500 people since the start of the year,” Attal said during an interview with BFMTV. “This letter is proposing this ‘relocation’ agreement. Obviously, that is not what we need to deal with this problem.”

Meanwhile, French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, who formally disinvited Patel over the letter, called it a disappointment.

“We consider the British prime minister’s public letter unacceptable and counter to our discussions between partners,” Darmanin said in a statement, reports the BBC. “As a result Priti Patel is no longer invited.”

Multiple British MPs have criticised the decision to disinvite Patel, with the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps arguing that the letter was published in “good faith” and that he didn’t think there was anything “inflammatory to ask for close co-operation with our nearest neighbours”.

“The only way we can solve this is to work together. I saw the letter from Boris Johnson last night. It suggests five different ways that we can redouble our efforts,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, defending the letter.

“I can’t really think why anyone wouldn’t want to, for example, set up a joint intelligence cell so we can work more closely in real-time,” he said.

“I very much hope that we’ll find a route to ensure that this can be properly discussed,” Shapps continued. “It can’t be resolved unless we’re talking so I do very much hope that a route is found to ensure that can happen.”

Conservative MP Jacob Young called the disinvitation “ridiculous behaviour from French government”, saying that they needed to “stop the boats — as simple as that”.

At least 27 migrants were killed on Wednesday, including at least one pregnant woman, after their boat capsized during an attempt to illegally cross the English Channel. The deaths have since sparked a blame game between Britain and France, despite both sides having done little to abate the ongoing crisis.

Despite the deadly risks, over 25,000 migrants have illegally made the crossing this year, around three times last years number. British immigration infrastructure has struggled with the load, with some migrants being transported over 500 miles to locations in Scotland for processing.

Brexit leader Nigel Farage has heavily criticised the British government for its role in the crisis, saying that the Border Force, the Home Office, as well as Home Secretary Patel, are all “not fit for purpose“.

“Within an hour or two of saying it was only a matter of time or that it would happen very soon, a major incident took place,” Farage said on his eponymous programme on GB News Wednesday night. “I wasn’t shocked at all, surprised, to be honest, that it didn’t happen earlier.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.