Channel migrants: Shapps grilled on Boris Johnson’s letter
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Franco-British relations plunged to a new low after France reacted badly to Prime Minister Boris Johnson publishing a letter which laid out the UK’s proposals for the Channel crisis online. French President Emmanuel Macron disinvited the British Home Secretary from a meeting with numerous other European leaders which was set up to resolve the issue after 33 migrants drowned while attempting to cross the Channel on Wednesday.
In his letter, Mr Johnson proposed “a bilateral readmissions agreement to allow all illegal migrants who cross the Channel to be returned”.
He wrote: “This would have an immediate effect and would significantly reduce if not stop the crossings, saving lives by fundamentally breaking the business model of the criminal gangs.”
In response Mr Macron accused the Prime Minister of not taking the issue seriously after Mr Johnson shared the letter on his official Twitter account.
Mr Macron said: “I am surprised by methods when they are not serious.
“One leader does not communicate with another on these questions on Twitter, by public letter.”
But some in France have accused Britain of attempting to have its cake and eat it by wanting to adopt EU measures after it left the EU.
They are referring in particular to the ‘Dublin agreement’ on the relocation of asylum seekers to the first EU country they arrived in.
Calais MP Pierre-Henri Dumont, quoted in the Telegraph, said: “What we are facing right now is an aftermath of Brexit.”
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He added: “The UK left the Dublin agreement.
“So it’s a bit strange that the one who pushed for Brexit is now asking for something that was contained with membership of the EU.”
But Brexit advocates claim that Britain is right to move away from the Dublin agreement and set up its own treaties.
Ben Harris-Quinney, Chairman of Britain’s oldest conservative think tank, the Bow Group, and a former key figure in the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign, told Express.co.uk that “Brexit demanded a total realignment of British foreign policy”.
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He said: “[Pacts including the Dublin agreement] should be torn up from a UK point of view, and domestic laws should be made that reflect the wishes of the public on immigration.
“The British public simply do not want mass immigration, whether legal or illegal, and the UK government must follow our wishes to secure our border and employ new policies that reverse rather than add to the tens of millions of people who have come into Britain in recent decades.”
A Home Office source told the Telegraph that “Dublin didn’t work”, insisting that new measures should be introduced in its place.
They said: “It doesn’t work for France, it didn’t work for us, it doesn’t work for countries across Europe. So actually I don’t think that’s a fair criticism [from Mr Dumont].”
Migration Watch UK has also highlighted Home Office statistics revealing that while, under the Dublin agreement, there were 676 returns of asylum seekers from the UK to EU countries in 2016 and 2017, 1,019 were transferred to the UK.
This came after Labour was accused of “siding with the French” in the dispute over Channel crossings.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds echoed the French President’s sentiments over the posting of a letter online by Mr Johnson and accusing the British Government of committing a “grave error of judgement”.
Mr Thomas-Symonds told the BBC: “[The publication of the letter] has ended up within a matter of hours with our Government being excluded from these vital talks that need to take place to prevent people from risking their lives I the Channel.”
Darren Grimes responded: “Of course Labour is siding with the French here. They will never, ever, side with Britain over the EU.”
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