English Channel: France raises tension with UK by withdrawing invitation to European meeting on migration | International


British Home Secretary Priti Patel is no longer welcome in France. His French counterpart, Gérald Darmanin, this Friday withdrew the invitation issued the day before to participate on Sunday in a meeting of European ministers to address the migration crisis in the English Channel, after the death of 27 migrants whose precarious boat it was shipwrecked in the cold waters that link the British and French coasts. From Rome, French President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed that the London representative will not be at the meeting in Calais and has lamented the “not very serious” methods of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who nevertheless refuses to retract.

The reason for the cancellation of the invitation is the “disappointment” caused by the open letter that Johnson posted Thursday night on Twitter, in which he urged President Emmanuel Macron to have France take charge of migrants crossing the canal through “a bilateral readmission agreement.” The European Union, Johnson said in a letter headed by a “dear [querido] Emmanuel ”,“ has readmission agreements with countries such as Belarus and the Russian Federation. I hope that such an agreement can be quickly reached with the UK as well ”, he concluded.

The British Government has already reacted to the withdrawal of the invitation. Speaking to the BBC, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended Johnson’s letter and stated that he hopes “that Paris will reconsider its decision.” “No nation can cope with this alone. It is in our interest. In your interest. Of course, it is in the interest of people who are trafficked to the UK, with these tragic scenes that we are seeing: people losing their lives, “said Shapps.

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However, it does not appear that France is willing to reconsider its position. At the start of his official visit to Italy on Friday, Macron, who had already asked Johnson to avoid “instrumentalizing” the tragedy of the worst sinking of migrants in years, once again criticized London’s way of acting. “Those methods surprise me, they are not very serious. It is not normal for two leaders to communicate with each other through tweets and make their correspondence public, ”said the French president. “The real answer lies in serious cooperation,” he added, indicating that Paris will work with European ministers who are also willing to behave “seriously.” “On Sunday, Minister Darmanin will meet with his counterparts from the European Union and with the Commission to work on these issues. Then we will see how to work with the British effectively when they decide to be serious, “he concluded.

Previously, French Government spokesman Gabriel Attal had described the letter from the UK chief executive as “poor in substance and totally inappropriate in form” on BFMTV. With this letter, which for Paris clearly goes against Macron’s request to Johnson to “not exploit” this week’s shipwreck, the British prime minister shows, Attal said, a lack of respect for the work of the coast guard and other law enforcement officials. in the area that have prevented tens of thousands of crossings so far this year and saved more than 7,500 migrants shipwrecked in those waters. For the French spokesman, the text is “poor at heart” because that type of migrant readmission agreement that he proposes “is obviously not what we need to solve” the migration issue. What would be needed, he added, is that the British “send agents to examine the asylum claims that concern them from French territory, which they do not do.”

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Aerial view of the boats used by migrants to cross the channel, are stored in a facility on November 26, in Dover, England.
Aerial view of the boats used by migrants to cross the channel, are stored in a facility on November 26, in Dover, England. Dan Kitwood (Getty Images)

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday the holding, this Sunday in Calais, of a meeting of the Interior Ministers of France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as the European Commission and the

The United Kingdom – which is no longer invited – with the aim of “defining the ways and means of reinforcing the police, judicial and humanitarian cooperation necessary to better fight against the networks of traffickers that act in migratory flows”.

According to Attal, Johnson’s letter “does not correspond at all” to the content of the conversation that Macron and the British prime minister had on Wednesday night, immediately after the shipwreck. The French president “is fed up with double speeches and the permanent outsourcing of problems” by London, the government spokesman said. “It would be necessary to ask if Boris Johnson does not regret now having left Europe, because as soon as there is a problem, he considers that it is Europe that must manage it. But things don’t work that way, “he added.

Fishing licenses

The growing bilateral tension between Paris and London escalated this Friday due to another bilateral dispute: that of the fishing licenses to fish in British waters, agreed after Brexit and that France claims not to have received. This matter has been provoking threats of mutual retaliation for weeks. Dozens of French fishing boats blocked this Friday for a few hours the entrance of ports on the channel coast such as those of Calais or Ouistreham, with the aim of preventing the entry and exit of ferries and cargo ships of British origin. Also in the Breton port of Saint-Malo, workers prevented a British ship, the Normandy Trader, will dock at the French dock, Reuters reports. The highly symbolic measure later moved to a partial blockade of the entrance to the Eurotunnel in Calais, through which 25% of trade between the United Kingdom and Europe transits.

“We don’t want handouts, we just want to get our licenses back. The United Kingdom must respect the post-Brexit agreement ”, declared the president of the national committee of fishermen, Gérard Romiti, when announcing the day before the protests of the day, which are considered as a final wake-up call regarding the deadline set for this week by the European Commission, which has given London until December 10 to resolve the dispute with Paris, according to Agence France Presse.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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