France suggests Boris Johnson 'regrets Brexit' as migrant crisis row continues

26 November 2021, 15:20 | Updated: 26 November 2021, 15:28

Emmanuel Macron's government has hit out at Boris Johnson following his public demands of France over the migrant crisis.
Emmanuel Macron's government has hit out at Boris Johnson following his public demands of France. Picture: Alamy

By James Morris

France has suggested Boris Johnson now regrets Brexit amid the bitter row over the migrant crisis.

It follows Mr Johnson’s letter to president Emmanuel Macron last night in which the prime minister demanded France takes back people who manage to cross the English Channel to Britain.

In a rant on BFMTV this morning, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said of Mr Johnson: “Enough with the double-speak, enough with the constant externalisation of problems.

“It makes you wonder if Boris Johnson doesn’t regret having left Europe, because every time he has a problem, he thinks that Europe should handle it.”

In his letter to Mr Macron, Mr Johnson – who swept to a landslide election victory in 2019 under his “get Brexit done” moniker – called for “immediate work on a bilateral returns agreement with France, alongside talks to establish a UK-EU returns agreement".

The PM said this “would would have an immediate and significant impact” as “incentive for people to put their lives in the hands of traffickers would be significantly reduced”.

It followed the deaths of 27 people off the coast of Calais on Wednesday, after a dinghy capsized.

He also made further demands including joint UK-French patrols by border officials along French beaches to stop boats leaving, something which Paris has long resisted.

Read more: Living in Syria 'scarier' than risking life in Channel: LBC speaks to migrants in Calais

The letter enraged France, to the extent that the country’s Interior Ministry this morning uninvited UK home secretary Priti Patel from a meeting of leading European ministers in Calais to discuss the crisis.

Mr Macron himself said Mr Johnson's decision to post his letter on Twitter suggested he was "not serious".

He said at a press conference today: “We do not communicate from one leader to another on these issues by tweets and letters that we make public. We are not whistleblowers.”

But transport secretary Grant Shapps told LBC this morning it was not a “mis-step” by the PM.

“It [the letter] proposes a joint or reciprocal maritime patrol in each other’s waters so we can help to tackle this.

“I think it’s important that we do work together, because the scenes in the Channel are absolutely tragic and it’s incumbent on us all to do everything we possibly can to stop these criminal gangs from operating. You can’t do that without talking.”