Priti Patel disinvited from Calais talks after PM suggests ‘readmitting’ migrants to France

The French government have uninvited Home Secretary Priti Patel from Sunday’s meeting of European interior ministers and the European Commission, in response to an open letter Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to President Emmanuel Macron yesterday evening about preventing Channel crossings.

The letter urged France to do more to stop illegal Channel crossings, and reiterated the British government’s offer to kickstart joint patrols in French waters in order to prevent the crossing of small boats.

The letter also proposed a “readmissions” agreement between the UK and France, which would allow the UK to deport people who illegally cross the Channel to France.

In a statement, the French interior ministry said: “We consider Boris Johnson’s public letter unacceptable and in opposition with discussions between counterparts.

“As a consequence, Priti Patel is not invited any more to the meeting on Sunday which will still take place between France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and the EU commission.”

On Wednesday 17 men, seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children died attempting the crossing, the biggest drowning incident in the Channel on record.

Over 26,000 people have made the perilous journey to the UK in small boats in 2021, triple the total for last year.

Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, reiterated the calls for joint patrols, telling BBC Breakfast that, “we saw footage of French police standing by while people got the boat ready, picked up the engine and took to the water on the French side.

“They did absolutely nothing. That’s unacceptable and that’s got to change. It is vital that action is taken and the only way to do that is to stop people on the beaches of France from getting into the boats and turning them around quickly in French waters.”

However Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that this “would not work”, and that: “To monitor all the shore would take thousands of people. There is also a question of sovereignty — I’m not sure the British people would accept it the other way round, with the French army patrolling the British shore.

William Fleming, a Former HM Inspector, UK Immigration Service and Senior Officer, Border Force, wrote in a letter to the Telegraph newspaper today that: “The Australian government stated a few years ago that it would not allow anyone arriving illegally in small boats to enter Australia. By this strong policy it has saved many lives from being lost at sea.”