‘Send it privately!’ Nick Robinson rages at Shapps over backfired French migrant letter

Channel migrants: Shapps grilled on Boris Johnson’s letter

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Grant Shapps was grilled by Nick Robinson following the news Home Secretary Priti Patel was uninvited from talks between France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and the European Commission due to a government public letter. In the post made on Twitter, the letter laid out the UK Government’s hopes that British forces would be able to help monitor the French northern coast to prevent a repeat of the 27 deaths in the Channel this week. But Mr Robinson accused Mr Shapps and his colleagues of chasing headlines rather than dealing with the issue properly in what he said was a move to “titillate” Tory supporters.

Boris Johnson published a public letter to French authorities ahead of Priti Patel’s meeting with her European counterparts.

In the letter published late Thursday evening, Mr Johnson called for joint or reciprocal patrol operations in territorial waters and the sharing of intelligence.

The UK Government also wanted to see more manned and unmanned airborne surveillance – likely drones – be used to monitor the Channel.

But French authorities appeared furious at the move with some calling it a provocation to force France into bowing down to the UK’s demands.

A statement from France said: “We consider the British prime minister’s public letter unacceptable and contrary to our discussions between counterparts…

“Therefore, Priti Patel is no longer invited on Sunday to the inter-ministerial meeting whose format will be: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and European Commission.”

Mr Robinson grilled Mr Shapps over the news with the Transport Secretary saying it was “common sense” for the UK and France to explore more forms of cooperation.

The BBC journalist replied: “You say it is common sense, you say it is practical, but the truth is the Home Secretary has a history of seeking headlines on this story, doesn’t she?

Migrant crisis: France 'ridiculous' for cancelling meeting says MP

“Let me remind you about what she said in 2019, she said that Channel crossings would be an infrequent phenomenon by spring 2020.

“At the time there were 1,900, she then said in 2020 ‘I am absolutely committed to making this incredibly dangerous route unviable’, by which time there were 8,500.”

Mr Robinson stated it has “all been words” from Ms Patel with Mr Shapps conceding it was a difficult issue to put a lid on but it showed the importance of cooperation.

The Radio 4 presenter interrupted and said: “If you want cooperation, don’t issue a letter on Twitter.

“Why don’t you send it to the French Government privately?”

Mr Shapps addressed the first point and said the French and UK governments were able to work together and make illegal immigration via lorries unviable for many migrants as the case rate has dropped.

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Mr Robinson then accused Mr Shapps and other Tory ministers of using the situation to rally Tory supporters with their words rather than do anything substantive.

This week, 27 people died in the Channel after their boat sank and was found by a passing fishing boat.

It is believed at least 25,600 people have crossed the Channel illegally and entered the UK, triple the figure the year before.

French authorities have come under fire after pictures and videos emerged on social media of police watching migrants take to the waters and not stopping them.

ITV reporter Jonathan Swain said French police officers told him it was not their job to stop them as there was a difficult legal line they had to follow.

He explained it was not illegal for them to put a boat in the water and sail off but it was illegal to enter UK waters – by then though it would be too late to do anything.

The Times reported around 40 migrants carried a large dinghy to place in the water as French police simply watched a few yards away on Tuesday.

The UK Government has suggested it would be up for sending British personnel to help monitor the coast which has seen a mixed reception in France,

En Marche politician Bruno Bonnell said he could support the move as long as it was not done to make France look complacent.

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