According to a letter published on Thursday, France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex reminded his British colleague Boris Johnson that the UK held “a big share of the solution” to the Channel migrant crisis and rejected the idea of cooperative border patrols (2 December).
Following a catastrophe last week in which at least 27 people perished, Castex wrote to Johnson late Wednesday with France’s proposals for preventing migrants from crossing the Channel in small boats.
He formally rejected Johnson’s suggestion that British security troops patrol the French shore to prevent dinghies from entering the water.
“We will not tolerate British police or soldiers patrolling our coastlines.” It’s a matter of sovereignty, and I’m aware of your government’s sensitivity to other people’s sovereignty,” Castex wrote.
Johnson’s controversial plan of returning all migrants who cross the Channel by sea to France, which the British prime minister believes “would greatly reduce — if not stop — the crossings,” was not addressed in the letter.
It stated that France will work for a migration accord between the UK and the EU “that might include a virtuous transfer mechanism.”
“Sending migrants back to us is not an option and is not a serious or responsible manner of dealing with the problem,” one of Castex’s aides said on Thursday, requesting anonymity.
After the mass drownings on November 24, Franco-British relations, which were already at an all-time low, plummeted once further.
In a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron last week, Johnson offered ideas that were interpreted in Paris as an attempt to shift blame to France.
His decision to make the letter public before Macron had seen it was viewed as a breach of diplomatic decorum, with Macron later criticising him as “not serious.”
In retribution, British Home Secretary Priti Patel’s invitation to attend a weekend conference of European ministers in France to address migration was withdrawn.
In private meetings with aides last week, Macron referred to Johnson as a “clown” and a “knucklehead,” according to the Le Canard enchaîné newspaper on Wednesday.
On Thursday, UK Business Minister George Freeman told Sky News, “It’s a fairly negative word.”
“Of course, the Prime Minister isn’t a clown; he’s the country’s elected prime minister, with a huge mandate, guiding the country through the pandemic.”