France axes Priti Patel meeting on Channel deaths after 'unacceptable' demands

Tensions deepened between France and the UK in the wake of the tragedy which saw at least 27 people die attempting to cross the Channel

A woman carries her children after being helped ashore from a RNLI lifeboat at a beach in Dungeness
A woman carries her children after being helped ashore from a RNLI lifeboat at a beach in Dungeness

France has scrapped talks with Home Secretary Priti Patel in an explosive escalation of tensions over the handling of deaths in the Channel.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has reportedly withdrawn an invitation to a critical meeting on the crisis after branding Boris Johnson’s demands “unacceptable”.

The meeting, attended by other European ministers, will go ahead on Sunday.

The Prime Minister appears to have enraged France by publishing a letter with five demands, including sending Brits to do joint border patrols on the French coast.

It comes after 17 men, seven women and three teenagers died in the Channel on Wednesday as they attempted to make the perilous crossing to the UK.

French police watch as a group of more than 40 migrants run with an inflatable dinghy to leave the coast of northern France on Wednesday



French media reported that the Interior Ministry statement said: “We consider the British Prime Minister’s public letter unacceptable and contrary to our discussions between counterparts.

“Therefore, Priti Patel is no longer invited on Sunday to the inter-ministerial meeting whose format will be: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and European Commission.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told LBC that “neither nation can tackle this alone”.

He said: “I very much hope the French will reconsider. Talking is obviously the way forward.”

In his letter, the PM said both two countries needed to “go further and faster together” to deal with the crisis.

He set out proposals for British border officials to begin patrols on the beaches of northern France as early as next week – something Paris has long resisted.

Ms Patel had been due to visit Calais on Sunday for talks with Mr Darmanin and counterparts from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

Mr Johnson had said he was ready to upgrade this meeting to a full summit of the countries concerned.

The Home Office declined to comment.

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