A meeting between Priti Patel and her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin has been dramatically cancelled following Boris Johnson’s latest intervention in the channel crossing crisis.
A public letter sent by the prime minister to President Emmanuel Macron was described as “unacceptable” by the French Interior Ministry which said the home secretary was “no longer invited” to the meeting with other European ministers on Sunday.
In his letter, Johnson said the two countries needed to “go further and faster together” to deal with the crisis, following the sinking of a migrant boat on Wednesday with the loss of 27 lives.
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.
Patel had been due to visit Calais on Sunday for talks with Darmanin and counterparts from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
Johnson had said he was ready to upgrade this meeting to a full summit of the countries concerned.
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 said Johnson had made the proposals in “good faith” and urged the French to reconsider their decision.
“I don’t think there is anything inflammatory to ask for close co-operation with our nearest neighbours,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“The proposal was made in good faith. I can assure our French friends of that and I hope that they will reconsider meeting up to discuss it.”
Following the deaths on Wednesday, Johnson irritated Paris by saying the incident showed efforts to stop migrants leaving “haven’t been enough” and there had been “difficulties” in getting the French to take action.