Priti’s migrant row fightback: Home Secretary’s allies say she has been repeatedly let down by other Ministers – and claim Macron ‘would say no to a pot of gold’ in battle to force the French to get grip on crisis
Priti Patel last night launched a defence of her handling of the migrant crisis as she faced pressure from Ministers and MPs.
It came amid growing Cabinet concern over the Home Secretary’s seeming inability to resolve the Channel migrant crisis.
However, Ms Patel’s allies hit back last night, defending her record and accusing the French of refusing to cooperate.
Twenty-seven migrants, including women and children, died on Wednesday when their dinghy sank off Calais.
Ms Patel was due to meet President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the crisis, but the French government cancelled the meeting in a fit of pique after receiving an open letter from Boris Johnson, posted on Twitter, which Mr Macron claimed breached protocol.
In a further escalation of rhetoric, Michel Barnier, the EU’s former Brexit negotiator, who is running in France’s presidential election, urged France to tear up its migrant treaty with the UK.
Priti Patel, 49, last night launched a defence of her handling of the migrant crisis as she faced pressure from Ministers and MPs
Ms Patel was due to meet President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the crisis, but the French government cancelled the meeting in a fit of pique after receiving an open letter from Boris Johnson
The Prime Minister is understood to have privately rebuked Ms Patel for failing to ‘get a grip’ on the issue, and was joined in his criticisms by other Ministers at a meeting in the wake of the drowning tragedy.
A source said: ‘She has had two years to sort this out, but the situation is worse than ever. She is happy to bask in the limelight when things are going well, but seems to go missing when it goes wrong.’
However, allies of Ms Patel hit back by blaming the French – and her ministerial colleagues.
A Home Office source said: ‘This letter debacle shows publicly what Priti has been battling against in private for the last two years. We have made all the offers the Prime Minister made to the French in his letter before.
‘We could offer them a pot of unlimited gold and a magic wand to make this all stop and they would still find a reason to say no.
‘People say she should get a grip of the situation, and now they can all see for themselves what she’s up against.
‘Departments across Whitehall have sat on their hands for two years and it’s only now they are starting to even look at what our asks of them are.
‘What would anyone else have done differently? For two years people have been trying to water down what we have suggested.
‘It’s only thanks to Priti that offshoring and outsourcing even remain options’.
The flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais on Wednesday, killing 27 people including seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children
Baran Nouri Hamadami, from northern Iraq, and pictured with her husband, was among the 27 who drowned in the disaster off the coast of Calais earlier this week
Twenty-seven migrants, including women and children, died on Wednesday when their dinghy sank off Calais. Pictured: Migrants prepare to cross the channel on November 24
Ms Patel is understood to be particularly angry about the lack of progress made by the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, while he was in the role of Foreign Secretary.
On Friday, Mr Macron criticised Mr Johnson for breaking protocol by publicly posting his letter, which was addressed ‘Dear Emmanuel’.
The French President, who is gearing up for an election next year, said he would ‘work seriously to settle serious issues with serious people’, and ‘move forward efficiently with the British, if they decide to get serious’.
But the Prime Minister’s spokesman defended publishing the letter and said: ‘The public understandably want to know what we’re doing to prevent this from happening again.’
The Prime Minister is understood to have privately rebuked Ms Patel for failing to ‘get a grip’ on the issue, and was joined in his criticisms by other Ministers at a meeting in the wake of the drowning tragedy
Migrants set up camp on a railway line in Grande-Synthe near Calais after police smashed their previous camp
Meanwhile, the crisis has also divided the Opposition.
Last night, some Labour MPs privately complained that the party was once again alienating its ‘patriotic’ working-class voters by appearing to side with the French President in the diplomatic spat over Mr Johnson’s letter.
They pointed to how Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds had described the French decision to cancel Priti Patel’s invitation to talks as ‘a humiliation’ for Mr Johnson and his Home Secretary.
The former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is now chief executive of the International Rescue Mission, said that Mr Johnson’s letter to the French President was ‘unwise’.
One senior Labour MP said last night: ‘The party’s making a mistake here – the working-class vote will support Boris on this.’
Macron meltdown as he brands Boris ‘not serious’ about migrant crisis
Emmanuel Macron went into meltdown at Boris Johnson today branding the PM ‘not serious’ for sending a public letter with demands for ending migrant tragedies in the Channel.
The Elysee Palace had already warned Mr Johnson not to ‘exploit’ the disaster that saw dozens of migrants drown off the French coast earlier this week for political gain, but the premier penned a letter overnight with a five-point plan for cooperation.
And today Mr Macron could not contain his anger when asked about the developments.
‘I’m surprised when things are not done seriously,’ he seethed. ‘We don’t communicate between leaders via tweets or published letters, we are not whistle-blowers.’
A French government spokesman said the proposals from Mr Johnson ‘don’t correspond at all’ with discussions the leaders had on Wednesday. ‘We are sick of double-speak,’ he added.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told counterpart Priti Patel this morning that she is no longer welcome at the crisis meeting on Sunday, after UK condemnation of lax patrolling at French beaches where migrants are launching boats in a desperate bid to reach Britain.
The move – branded ‘le grand snub’ – sparked a backlash in the UK with Mr Macron and his ministers accused of ‘forgetting 27 people died two days ago’.
A spokesman for Mr Darmanin, who yesterday accused Britain of ‘bad immigration management’ and enticing migrants with benefits and slack labour rules, said: ‘We consider Boris Johnson’s public letter unacceptable and in opposition with discussions between counterparts.
‘As a consequence, Priti Patel is not invited anymore to the meeting on Sunday.’ The summit with other European interior ministers will go ahead without the Home Secretary, whose aides had already travelled to Paris by Eurostar last night.
The decision sparked fury from British MPs. Tory backbencher Jacob Young tweeted: ‘Ridiculous behaviour from the French government seeming to forget that two days ago 27 people died crossing the Channel. Stop the boats – as simple as that.’
Fellow Conservative Nicola Richards said: ‘It’s truly childish behaviour being shown by France, becoming more and more evident they don’t want to stop these boats leaving France. 27 people died a matter of days ago, but they would rather to be petty than help find a solution.’