Calais migrant meeting that we banned Patel from 'not anti-English' says France

28 November 2021, 22:03 | Updated: 29 November 2021, 07:52

Priti Patel was disinvited from a migrant summit
Priti Patel was disinvited from a migrant summit. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A migrant crisis summit that the UK was disinvited from was not "anti-English", France's interior minister has insisted.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel was blocked from the meeting in Calais which involved her counterparts from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the EU.

Held to discuss small boat crossings after 27 people died when their boat capsized in the English Channel, Britain was barred from attending after Boris Johnson enraged French president Emmanuel Macron by posting a letter to Twitter.

However, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said they discussed the need to work with London on the crossings.

"This meeting was not anti-English. It was pro-European," he said.

"We want to work with our British friends and allies."

Read more: UK rescues more migrants hours after 27 die in worst ever Channel tragedy

Read more: Migrants: Home Sec 'uninvited' from talks after PM called on France to take people back

It was agreed that a plane from the EU's border agency, Frontex, will be used to monitor the European shoreline from December 1.

That is understood to have pleased Ms Patel, and a Whitehall source said: "We will this week have more talks with counterparts on how we can work together to resolve this Europe-wide crisis."

Ms Patel was disinvited after Mr Johnson shared a letter he sent to Mr Macron suggesting ways to tackle the crisis, including the idea of joint patrols, which the French had rejected.

Read more: Work with us or risk seeing more migrants drown, Patel warns Europe

The publication of the letter online angered Paris and led to Ms Patel being disinvited from the Calais summit.

While describing that as "unfortunate", Ms Patel said on Twitter: "I will be holding urgent talks with my European counterparts this week to prevent further tragedies in the Channel.

"More international co-operation and passing our Borders Bill quickly into law will stop the people smugglers and save lives."

Ms Patel had warned European countries that failure to bolster cooperation on the issue could see "even worse scenes" than the 27 people who died in the Channel.

Among them are thought to have been children, an expecting mother and a 24-year-old Kurdish woman from Iraq who was trying to reunite with her fiancé.

It was the worst death toll of its kind in the Channel.