27 November 2021

Patel warns of ‘even worse scenes’ in Channel if co-operation is not boosted

27 November 2021

Home Secretary Priti Patel has warned that failing to increase co-operation with Europe could cause “even worse scenes” in the Channel this winter than the capsizing that killed 27 people.

She vowed to “continue to push” for improvement next week, despite being disinvited by the French from a meeting of European colleagues to tackle the migration crisis.

Interior ministers from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the European Commission are to meet in Calais on Sunday to discuss small boat crossings.

Ms Patel’s invitation was withdrawn after Prime Minister Boris Johnson angered Emmanuel Macron by publicly sharing a letter he had written to the French president on how to deal with the issue.

The UK cannot tackle this issue alone, and across Europe we all need to step up, take responsibility, and work together in a time of crisis

She said conversations with her French counterpart, Gerald Darmanin, had been “constructive” on Thursday, though she did not repeat the term about their talks on Friday as the diplomatic row was peaking.

“As I have said time and time again, there is no quick fix, no silver bullet. The UK cannot tackle this issue alone, and across Europe we all need to step up, take responsibility, and work together in a time of crisis,” Ms Patel said in a statement.

“We will not shy away from the challenge we face, and next week I will continue to push for greater co-operation with European partners because a failure to do so could result in even worse scenes in the freezing water during the coming winter months.”

Wednesday’s tragedy claimed 27 lives, said to have included an expectant mother, children and a 24-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iraq trying to reunite with her fiance.

French police at a beach near Wimereux in France (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

It was the highest death toll on record in the current crisis.

The Prime Minister tweeted a letter to Mr Macron outlining his call for talks to begin on a bilateral returns agreement, saying it could have “an immediate and significant impact” on attempts to cross the Channel, after the UK left a European Union returns agreement with Brexit.

Mr Johnson also reiterated a call for joint UK-French patrols by border officials along French beaches to stop boats leaving, which Paris has long resisted.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal rejected the proposal as “clearly not what we need to solve this problem” as he said the Prime Minister’s letter “doesn’t correspond at all” with discussions Mr Johnson and Mr Macron had on Wednesday.

“We are sick of double-speak,” he added, and said Mr Johnson’s decision to post his letter on his Twitter feed suggested he was “not serious”.

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