Emmanuel Macron claims Boris Johnson 'not serious' about migrant crisis

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French President Emmanuel Macron - Domenico Stinellis /AP POOL
French President Emmanuel Macron - Domenico Stinellis /AP POOL

Emmanuel Macron dismissed Boris Johnson as "not serious" after the Prime Minister sent a letter, publicly relayed online, to the French president in which he called on him to take back Channel migrants.

Mr Macron spoke hours after France disinvited the Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, from a meeting on Sunday in Calais between ministers from France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands as well as the European Commission.

"I'm surprised when things are not done seriously, we don't communicate between leaders via tweets or published letters, we are not whistleblowers. Come on!," he said during a joint conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The French president said that he did have a "serious" conversation with Mr Johnson two days ago. "From my part, I intend to continue doing what I do with all countries and all leaders. So, ministers will work seriously to tackle a serious question, with serious people."

He added: "For this purpose, interior minister (Gérald) Darmanin will host Sunday a meeting with his European counterparts and the [European] Commission to work on this issue, and then we will see with the Brits how we can act effectively, if they decide to be serious."

The anger followed a letter from the Prime Minister to Mr Macron last night calling for a 'returns agreement' which would see those who arrive on UK shores illegally sent back to France. He also offered joint patrols on French beaches as early as next week.

The letter was denounced as “both poor in substance and totally inappropriate in style" by a government spokesman.

On Friday, Mr Darmanin announced he had written to Priti Patel to say that a meeting on Sunday will now proceed without British involvement.

Mr Johnson's letter was, he said, a "disappointment".

He wrote: "Making it public made it even worse. I therefore need to cancel our meeting in Calais on Sunday."

Meanwhile, Paris has accused the UK of being two-faced by blaming the EU for its own woes while drawing migrants who know they face little risk of being sent back to their countries of origin.

“We are fed up with double talk," said Gabriel Attal, the government spokesman. "We are fed up with the way they are externalising problems. You wonder whether Boris Johnson doesn’t regret leaving Europe because whenever there is a problem, he considers that Europe must handle it. But that is not the way it works."

France, he insisted, was actually far better at expelling illegal immigrants than its neighbour.

“You know why you have migrants who want to go to Britain? Firstly because you have bosses in Britain who totally use the migrant in ultra-precarious jobs so obviously that lures the migrants," he said.

“And they go to Britain because Britain enforces its laws much less than France, and sends (illegal migrants) out of the country much less than France."

He added that "7,800 people have been saved from drowning since the start of the year thanks to [French] efforts."

“What we need is that the British send us officials to study the asylum claims that concern them on French soil."

Appearing on Sky News, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, insisted action was required on French beaches but "we can only do many of these things working with the French".

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