France 'sick' of Boris Johnson's 'double-speak' over migrant crisis in the Channel

Emmanuel Macron told a French press conference that leaders do not communicate via 'twitter and letters that we make public'


France has reacted with fury after Boris Johnson publicly called on Paris to take back migrants who succeed in making the perilous Channel crossing to Britain.

A French government spokesman accused the Prime Minister of “double-speak” as the fallout from the sinking of a migrant boat on Wednesday with the loss of 27 lives erupted into a full-scale diplomatic row.

Earlier the Interior Ministry announced that it was withdrawing an invitation to Home Secretary Priti Patel to attend a meeting in Calais on Sunday of ministers from key European countries to discuss the crisis.

The French were enraged by Mr Johnson releasing a letter he sent to President Emmanuel Macron setting out his proposals to tacking the issue.

They included joint UK-French patrols by border officials along the French beaches to stop the boats leaving – a move which Mr Johnson said could begin as early as next week but which Paris has long resisted.

He also called for talks to begin on a bilateral returns agreement – saying it could have “an immediate and significant impact” of the flow of people attempting the crossing.

However, the proposal was dismissed by French government spokesman Gabriel Attal who said it was “clearly not what we need to solve this problem”.

He said the Prime Minister’s letter “doesn’t correspond at all” with discussions Mr Johnson and Mr Macron had when they spoke on Wednesday.

“We are sick of double-speak,” he said.

Mr Macron said that Mr Johnson’s decision to post his letter on his Twitter feed suggested he was “not serious”.

“We do not communicate from one leader to another on these issues by tweets and letters that we make public. We are not whistleblowers,” he told a news conference

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted Mr Johnson’s proposals had been made in “good faith” and he appealed to the French to reconsider their decision to withdraw the invitation to Ms Patel.

“I think it is really important that we work hand-in-glove with the French. 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.”

In a statement reported on French media, the Interior Ministry said the meeting on Sunday would now go ahead with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and his counterparts from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany and representatives of the European Commission.