Thursday morning UK news briefing: PM demands France 'step up'

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covid latest news migrants france boris johnson calais channel
covid latest news migrants france boris johnson calais channel

It was the day the luck ran out. After at least 27 people died off the coast of Calais while trying to reach Britain, Boris Johnson has demanded that France must "step up" and stop migrants crossing the Channel.

Dozens of bodies, including those of five women and a young girl, were found in the sea after the flimsy boat - likened to a "blow-up paddling pool in a garden" - sank in rough seas and cold weather. The dinghy was reportedly hit by a large ship, thought to be a cargo vessel.

With intense anger among senior government figures over the lack of French action in recent weeks, the Prime Minister convened an emergency Cobra meeting and said "now is the time for us all to step up" and "demolish" the smuggling gangs "who are literally getting away with murder".

The tragedy occurred as 255 migrants reached the UK yesterday - including about 40 in a boat from Boulogne, who were allowed into the sea by a French police patrol who appeared to do nothing.

Chief Reporter Robert Mendick has our reconstruction of how tragedy unfolded.

The issue of who is to blame for yesterday's deaths - aside from the criminal gangs who prey on the desperate - will become an inevitable Anglo-French row in the coming days.

Each side has been blaming the other for as long as the small boats crisis has existed. Last night, the mayor of Calais partially blamed Mr Johnson for the deaths, accusing him of lacking the "courage" to handle those who wish to reach Britain on home soil.

Associate Editor Gordon Rayner says that as long as the political mistrust continues, so too will these tragedies.

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Olaf Scholz, centre, the incoming German chancellor - ODD ANDERSEN/AFP
Olaf Scholz, centre, the incoming German chancellor - ODD ANDERSEN/AFP

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If you want to receive twice-daily briefings like this by email, sign up to the Front Page newsletter here. For two-minute audio updates, try The Briefing - on podcasts, smart speakers and WhatsApp.

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