France suggests talks with UK over Channel crossings could resume after row

Politics

France’s interior minister has suggested talks with the UK over Channel crossings could resume as Paris proposed ideas to tackle the crisis.

Gerald Darmanin said Prime Minister Jean Castex will write to Boris Johnson on Tuesday with proposals for a “balanced agreement” between the UK and the EU.

He said discussions could take place “very quickly” if the British are prepared to enter negotiations in a “serious spirit”.

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Mr Darmanin’s comments come after Home Secretary Priti Patel was disinvited to talks with France and other European countries on Sunday after French President Emmanuel Macron objected to the PM tweeting a letter of suggestions he had sent to Mr Macron.

A UK government source said France’s mood change appears to be “positive” following the diplomatic row that came after 27 migrants died in the Channel last Wednesday.

France’s attitude towards the UK appears to have thawed slightly, with Mr Darmanin, speaking at a news conference on Monday night, saying the two countries needed to work together to deal with a shared problem.

“From the moment there is no more double-speak, and we can discuss in a serious spirit, and our private exchanges correspond to our public exchanges, the French government is ready to very quickly resume discussions with Great Britain,” he said.

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He said the proposals could include ways to open up legal routes to the UK for asylum seekers and to allow unaccompanied minors to join relatives in the UK.

But, he said France would not accept Mr Johnson’s suggestion of turning back boats, saying: “This is a red line for the French government.”

Mr Johnson is holding talks online on Tuesday with Belgian prime minister Alexander de Croo, whose interior minister was at Sunday’s meeting Ms Patel was excluded from.

Downing Street has said a returns agreement, where asylum seekers are returned to the first safe country they entered, would be the “single biggest deterrent” to people trying to cross the Channel in small boats.

Ms Patel held a phone call with her Dutch counterpart ahead of Sunday’s meeting in which the pair also agreed a returns agreement is necessary.

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