France’s interior minister has said France is ready to resume discussions with the UK over the migrant crisis if the Britons enter the talks «in a serious spirit».
Gerald Darmanen said negotiations could resume «very quickly» if the UK ended «double talk» and that its public comments were in line with what was being said in private.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson angered French President Emmanuel Macron last week when he posted a message on Twitter calling for joint patrols of French beaches and the return of migrants who managed to cross the dangerous English Channel to France.
Macron said it was not a serious way to negotiate, while Interior Minister Priti Patel was expelled from a meeting in Calais on Sunday of ministers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany to discuss the crisis.
The row came on the heels of a boat capsizing in the Channel last week, which killed at least 27 people.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Darmanin said the two countries need to work together to deal with a common problem.
«We cannot change our geography, so we need to come to terms with our British friends and allies even though they chose to leave Europe,» he said.
“The common interest of Europe and Great Britain is to work together to try to solve this problem.
«From the moment there is no more double talk, and we can discuss in a serious spirit, and our private conversations coincide with our public exchanges, the French Government is ready to resume discussions very quickly with Great Britain.»
Darmanin added that Paris hoped that «public harassment» would stop, «particularly by the United Kingdom towards French or European political leaders».
A government source said Darmanin’s offer to resume talks appeared to be a «positive» development.
«We are keen to work together to find common solutions to this issue,» the source said.
Darmanin said French Prime Minister Jean Castix will write to Johnson with Paris proposals for a «balanced deal» between the UK and the EU.
«We cannot accept – and this is a red line for the French government – the practice of returning boats to the sea,» he added.
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Earlier, Downing Street insisted that the return agreement, as outlined by Johnson in his letter, would be the «biggest single deterrent» to migrants trying to cross the Channel.
After French criticism that British labor market rules make it too easy for migrants to find work, the prime minister’s official spokesman said the government was taking measures to reform the asylum system.
«The biggest single deterrent, and the biggest step we can take with the French will be the return agreement, as the Prime Minister outlined last week,» the spokesman said.
«But we are already taking steps through the Citizenship and Borders Bill to reduce the attractions to the UK and make our asylum system more robust and equitable.»
After Sunday’s talks, it was agreed that a plane, operated by the European border agency Frontex, would monitor the canal’s shores for people crossing from 1 December.
Immigration officials also pledged to work more closely together against human smuggling networks and the rubber boat trade.
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