France has formally rejected Boris Johnson’s call for British authorities to carry out joint patrols on the beaches around Calais to deter people from crossing the Channel unsafely. In a letter to Johnson the French prime minister, Jean Castex, said the country could not accept the presence of British police officers or soldiers as that would compromise the nation’s sovereignty.
Castex also suggested the UK should carry out reforms of its systems to offer “legal immigration paths” for people to go to the UK instead of risking the perilous crossing.
However, he promised that France would examine “in good faith” some of the proposals put forward to resolve the crisis.
Johnson sparked fury in France by publishing his letter to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, calling for further action after 27 people lost their lives while attempting to cross the Channel in November. Reports appeared that Macron had labelled Johnson a “clown” and “knucklehead” in the feud.
But the British government has promised to work in “close co-operation and partnership” with France following Castex’s letter. According to Le Monde, Castex wrote: “We have always accepted to examine and discuss in good faith British proposals of reinforcement and cooperation. We have accepted some, we have declined others.”
France has repeatedly turned down British requests for joint land and maritime operations in its territory. The French prime minister said more than 700 police and gendarmes were already covering the area around Dunkirk and Calais to prevent small boats carrying migrants taking to the water. But these efforts only permitted containing “the phenomenon, not [bringing] a lasting response”.
Castex suggested the UK arranged “legal immigration paths” for those who had “legitimate reasons” to enter the country, and to pursue a “more efficient” returns policy for those who did not.
A UK government spokesman said: “We stand ready to discuss all options in the spirit of our close cooperation and partnership, and as a shared, global, challenge it is vital we address illegal migration collectively and urgently.”