Priti Patel accused of publicity stunt ‘as Navy quits migrant patrols’

·1-min read
Priti Patel planned on potentially “pushing back” boats to France (REUTERS)
Priti Patel planned on potentially “pushing back” boats to France (REUTERS)

Priti Patel was on Tuesday accused of presiding over a failed “publicity stunt” after it was claimed the Royal Navy is preparing to abandon its role in tackling the Channel migrant crisis.

Reports said the Navy, drafted in by the Home Secretary in April to help the Border Force deter small boat crossings, will end its involvement early next year unless it receives a new government edict to continue.

The move follows a doubling in the number of migrants arriving from France so far this year, with the total already above 20,000 and set to top the record annual tally of 28,526 in 2021.

The Home Office declined to comment, but critics rounded on Ms Patel as they warned that the scheme — billed as beefing up Britain’s response by potentially “pushing back” boats to France — had always been destined to fail.

John Spellar, a former Labour armed forces minister and current vice-chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, said the use of naval vessels had been opposed by the committee from the outset.

“It was basically a PR exercise by the Home Secretary, which wasn’t wanted by the Ministry of Defence, which wasn’t wanted by the Navy, and made no sense,” he said.

“The image that they would be pushing back boats was clearly against the long-standing international law of the sea.” Mr Spellar added: “This was just a publicity stunt by a Home Secretary who has utterly failed on policy.”