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French fury at Johnson’s ‘double-speak’ in Channel migrant crisis

France has reacted with fury after Boris Johnson publicly called on Paris to take back migrants who succeed in making the perilous Channel crossing to Britain.

A French government spokesman accused the Prime Minister of “double-speak” as the fallout from the sinking of a migrant boat on Wednesday with the loss of 27 lives erupted into a full-scale diplomatic row.

Earlier the French Interior Ministry announced it was withdrawing an invitation to Home Secretary Priti Patel to attend a meeting in Calais on Sunday of ministers from key European countries to discuss the crisis.

The French were enraged by Mr Johnson releasing a letter he sent to President Emmanuel Macron setting out his proposals to tackle the issue.

They included joint UK-French patrols by border officials along French beaches to stop boats leaving – a move which Mr Johnson said could begin as early as next week but which Paris has long resisted.

He also called for talks to begin on a bilateral returns agreement, saying it could have “an immediate and significant impact” on the flow of people attempting the crossing.

However, the proposal was dismissed by French government spokesman Gabriel Attal, who said it was “clearly not what we need to solve this problem”.

He said the Prime Minister’s letter “doesn’t correspond at all” with discussions Mr Johnson and Mr Macron had when they spoke on Wednesday.

“We are sick of double-speak,” he said.

Mr Macron said Mr Johnson’s decision to post his letter on his Twitter feed suggested he was “not serious”.

“We do not communicate from one leader to another on these issues by tweets and letters that we make public. We are not whistleblowers,” he told a news conference.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted Mr Johnson’s proposals were made in “good faith”, and appealed to the French to reconsider their decision to withdraw the invitation to Ms Patel.

“I think it is really important that we work hand-in-glove with the French. I don’t think there is anything inflammatory to ask for close co-operation with our nearest neighbours,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

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