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EU plane to monitor Channel for crossings as leaders stress need to work with UK

·3-min read
Ministers and officials met in Calais to discuss the migrant crisis (Francois Lo Presti/ Pool Photo via AP) (AP)
Ministers and officials met in Calais to discuss the migrant crisis (Francois Lo Presti/ Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

An EU plane is set to monitor the shores of the Channel for people crossing, as European leaders stressed the need to cooperate with the UK after 27 people died when a boat capsized.

Interior ministers from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the European Commission met in Calais on Sunday to discuss small boat crossings – without UK officials or Home Secretary Priti Patel present.

It was decided that from December 1 a plane operated by EU border agency Frontex will help the countries to monitor their shores.

Migration officials also pledged to work together more closely against people-smuggling networks and the trade in inflatable boats.

This meeting was not anti-English. It was pro-European

Gerald Darmanin

Ms Patel was understood to be pleased with the decision to dispatch the Frontex plane.

A Whitehall source said: “We will this week have more talks with counterparts on how we can work together to resolve this Europe-wide crisis.”

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters after the meeting in the French port: “We have to prevent lives being lost. We have to prevent chaos coming to our external borders.”

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin revealed leaders had stressed the need to work with the UK to tackle the issue.

He said: “This meeting was not anti-English. It was pro-European.

“We want to work with our British friends and allies.”

Ms Patel had said it was “unfortunate” she could not be present at the meeting during an earlier conversation with Dutch migration minister Ankie Broekers-Knol on Sunday morning.

The Home Office said the phone call saw the Home Secretary stress the need to work with European countries.

They also discussed “ideas for enhanced bilateral and EU co-operation” as well as the need to tackle criminal gangs operating boat journeys across the Channel, it was said.

Ms Patel said on Twitter: “I will be holding urgent talks with my European counterparts this week to prevent further tragedies in the Channel.

“More international co-operation and passing our Borders Bill quickly into law will stop the people smugglers and save lives.”

She had said that failing to increase co-operation with Europe could cause “even worse scenes” in the Channel this winter.

Ms Patel wrote in the Sun on Sunday: “There should now be an even greater onus on all of us on both sides of the Channel to act.

“We have a long history of working constructively with our friends across the Channel on shared challenges.”

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

The UK’s invitation to the meeting was withdrawn after Prime Minister Boris Johnson angered Emmanuel Macron by publicly sharing a letter he had written to the French president on how to deal with the issue.

Ms Patel said conversations with Mr Darmanin had been “constructive” on Thursday, though she did not repeat the term about their talks on Friday as the diplomatic row was peaking.

Labour shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News: “France blames Britain, Britain blames France. The truth is that both governments are engaging in a blame game while children drown off our coastline.

“It’s just simply unconscionable and any responsible government on either side of the Channel would set aside those differences and work together to deal with what is a collective problem that will only be solved together.”

Wednesday’s tragedy claimed 27 lives, said to have included an expectant mother, children and a 24-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iraq trying to reunite with her fiance.

It was the highest death toll on record in the current crisis.

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