A Home Office minister has insisted that relations between France and the UK are “strong” despite Boris Johnson and President Emmanuel Macron clashing over how to deal with migrants crossing the Channel in small boats as they flee war, poverty and persecution.
Damian Hinds, whose brief covers security and borders, defended the Prime Minister’s letter to the French leader as “exceptionally supportive and collaborative” after Paris was enraged by Mr Johnson making it public.
A full-scale diplomatic row between the two nations erupted as the first of the 27 victims of a capsizing on Wednesday was named as a young Kurdish woman from northern Iraq.
Relatives identified 24-year-old Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, known to her family as Baran, as one of the people who died on the deadliest day of the Channel migration crisis.
The student was said to have been trying to join her fiance who already lives in Britain, and her cousin urged the British and French governments to help people resettle rather than “force them to take this route of death”.
As families mourned the loss of their loved ones, politicians argued about how to stem perilous crossings of the Channel.
Paris withdrew an invitation to Home Secretary Priti Patel to attend a meeting of ministers from key European allies in Calais on Sunday.
France was angered by Mr Johnson releasing a letter he sent to Mr Macron setting out his proposals, including reiterating a call for joint UK-French patrols by border officials along French beaches to stop boats leaving, which Paris has long resisted.
Mr Johnson also called for talks to begin on a bilateral returns agreement, saying it could have “an immediate and significant impact” on attempts to cross the Channel after the UK left a European Union returns agreement with Brexit.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal rejected the proposal as “clearly not what we need to solve this problem” as he said the Prime Minister’s letter “doesn’t correspond at all” with discussions Mr Johnson and Mr Macron had when they spoke on Wednesday.