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France withdraws invitation to UK minister over Johnson letter

France has withdrawn UK Home Secretary Priti Patel’s invitation to a meeting in Calais, following the publication of a letter by PM Boris Johnson to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, regarding migrant crossings.

In a message seen by the news agency AFP on Friday, France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said he was “disappointed” by a letter that was sent by Johnson to the French president and simultaneously published on the British prime minister’s Twitter account on Thursday.

Darmanin contends that, while France was dismayed at its contents, its publication on social media only made matters worse. As a result, the French government has canceled an urgent meeting to deal with the uptick in migrant crossings of the Channel that was scheduled with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel for Sunday.  

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“Priti Patel is no longer invited to the inter-ministerial meeting on Sunday, which will go ahead with France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and the European Commission,” a senior French official told the FT on Friday, confirming reports in the French press.  

In his letter, Johnson had called for joint maritime patrols to prevent migrant crossings of the Channel, and a deal to return migrants who successfully make it to the UK to France. “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,” Johnson had written.

Patel was due to meet her French counterpart for a meeting in Calais following the deaths of 27 migrants during a crossing on Wednesday. France has pledged to increase its own responsibility, but, according to the Elysée, demanded Johnson not use the tragedy to actualize “political ends.”

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