France’s interior minister has cancelled talks with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on France to take back migrants who crossed the Channel.
In an escalation of the political crisis after the deaths of 27 people in the Channel, Gerald Darmanin said France was disappointed by the letter.
“Making it public made it even worse.”
Johnson set out five steps in his letter to President Emmanuel Macron to avoid a repeat of Wednesday’s tragedy.
“We consider the British prime minister’s public letter unacceptable and counter to our discussions between partners,” said Darmanin in a statement.
“As a result Priti Patel is no longer invited,” he added.
The sinking of the inflatable boat on Wednesday marked the biggest loss of life by drowning in the English Channel on record and included 17 men, seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children.
Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission are all due to attend Sunday’s summit in Calais.
The French government’s anger was clear within hours of Johnson’s letter being posted on social media. Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said the letter was “poor in substance, and totally out of place”, failing to respect all the work that France had done on the Channel coast.
“An agreement with France to take back migrants who cross the Channel through this dangerous route would have an immediate and significant impact,” said Johnson.