Patel speaks with Dutch minister amid ‘urgent talks’ over Channel crossings

The Home Secretary held a phone call with Ankie Broekers-Knol on Sunday morning.

Priti Patel
Priti Patel

Priti Patel has discussed Channel boat crossings with the Dutch migration minister as she said she will hold “urgent talks” with her European counterparts this week.

The Home Secretary spoke with Ankie Broekers-Knol during a phone call on Sunday morning, with both agreeing over the need for countries to work together following the capsizing that killed 27 people.

Ms Patel also said it was “unfortunate” she could not be present as interior ministers from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the European Commission were meeting in Calais on Sunday to discuss small boat crossings.

The Home Office said: “They agreed that the tragic incidents of last week demonstrate the need for European partners to work together. It was clear that shared problems needed shared solutions.

“The Home Secretary expressed that it was unfortunate that she wouldn’t be present at today’s meeting of Interior Ministers in Calais to discuss this issue.”

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.

On Sunday, 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.”

The Home Secretary added that she was “sorry” not to have been at the meeting in Calais.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Her invitation was withdrawn after Prime Minister Boris Johnson angered Emmanuel Macron by publicly sharing a letter he had written to the French president on how to deal with the issue.

She said conversations with her French counterpart, Gerald 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 share 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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