Reacting from 10 Downing Street on Wednesday November 24, Boris Johnson said to himself “Shocked, dismayed and deeply saddened” by the tragic disappearance of at least 27 people a few hours earlier off the coast of Calais. The British Prime Minister immediately called on Paris to collaborate more, because “the operations conducted by our friends [les Français] on the beaches, backed by £ 54million in British money, were not enough. (…) Now is the time to step up our efforts, to work together and to do everything to put an end to the activities of the murderous smuggler gangs ”.
The day before, Priti Patel, her interior minister had confirmed information from the Times, according to which the Home Office had offered to Paris to send British police officers to help their French colleagues to patrol the beaches of Pas-de-Calais in order to avoid the departures of small boats. This offer was rejected by the French government, according to the Times.
” We have had difficulty persuading some of our partners, especially the French, to take the measures that the situation calls for. I understand the difficulties countries face, but we want to work more together (…) on the beaches concerned ”, Mr Johnson insisted, even more explicitly on Wednesday. Later that evening, following a telephone interview with Emmanuel Macron, a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said that “The British Prime Minister and the French President have agreed on the urgency of stepping up the fight against illegal crossings”.
Does this call to collaborate mark a change of posture on the British side? In recent months, the Home Office has continued to denounce a supposed lack of hexagonal zeal, even suggesting in September that if the French police did not stop more small boats, London would not pay the 54 million pounds of additional aid granted last summer to finance a reinforcement of the police force and logistics on the beaches of Pas-de-Calais. But these threats only robbed the French authorities, and further deteriorate the already deplorable Franco-British relations.
Feverishness in Downing Street
It must be said that Downing Street faces a serious political crisis: Wednesday’s drama sparked great emotion in the country, with NGOs and opposition Labor MPs lamenting a “Avoidable drama” and denouncing the” hostile environment ” with regard to migrants created by the Home Office in recent years. Many voices on Wednesday called for treatment “More worthy” migrants. “Words matter. The poor souls who have disappeared in La Mancha deserve to be qualified for what they are: human persons. Men, women, children, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. They loved and they were loved. In other words, they were like us ”, underlined Angela Rayner, number two in the Labor Party on Twitter.
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