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Macron Tells The UK To Be "Serious" After Disinviting Priti Patel From Migration Meeting

3 min read

French President Emmanuel Macron has angrily accused Boris Johnson of not behaving seriously as tensions grow between the UK and France over how to handle Channel crossings.

At a press conference on Friday morning, Macron strongly criticised the UK government's decision on Thursday night to publish on social media a letter from Johnson to the French president suggesting how to tackle the issue.

"I am surprised by the methods when they are not serious, we do not communicate by tweets," the French President said, adding that he had spoken to Johnson in a "serious manner" before the letter was posted online.

Macron said the "only answer was serious cooperation" and that his government would see "how to work efficiently with the British if they decide to be serious."

He said: "We don't communicate from one leader to another on these subjects like this via tweets or by making letters public."

Macron was speaking after his government disinvited Home Secretary Priti Patel from a meeting of European ministers about migration this Sunday.

A spokesperson for the French government, Gabriel Attal, confirmed that the publication of Johnson's letter to Macron was why Patel was no longer invited, describing it as "formally poor and its content inappropriate" in an interview with French news outlet BFMTV.

Attall said France is "fed up with double talk" and added: “You wonder whether Boris Johnson doesn’t regret leaving Europe."

The meeting on Sunday will go ahead between France, Belgium, Germany, Holland and the European Commission, without representation from the UK.

In his letter to Macron, which Johnson tweeted last night, the Prime Minister set out five proposals for addressing Channel crossings after at least 27 people, including five women and a young girl, tragically died trying to reach the UK from France earlier this week.

Among the Prime Minister's proposals was Macron agreeing to receive migrants returned from the UK, and British authorities helping their French counterparts patrol beaches in France.

Johnson said France signing up to a returns agreement would be "the single biggest step" the two sides could make towards stopping people attempting the deadly 20-mile trip across the Channel.

"If those who reach this country were swiftly returned, the incentive for people to put their lives in the hands of traffickers would be significantly reduced," the Prime Minister said in his letter.

"This would be the single biggest step we could take together to reduce the draw to Northern France and break the business model of criminal gangs."

He also suggested that both sides use more sophisiticated technology to prevent Channel crossings, and improve intelligence sharing to help drive the arrests of people smugglers.

Johnson is under pressure to quickly get a handle on the issue and has set up a new ministerial taskforce, chaired by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Stephen Barclay, in a bid to find solutions.

Patel has been heavily criticised for her role in handling Channel crossings, with a Whitehall source yesterday telling PoliticsHome that the Home Office was "completely incompetent."

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