Good morning. Last night Boris Johnson released the text of an open letter (pdf) sent to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, suggesting various measures France could take to help stop people crossing the Channel on small boats. One of his proposals was that France should just simply take people back after they have arrived in Britain.
As he explained it in a Twitter thread, this could serve as a massive deterrent, he argued.
The letter has gone down very badly in Paris. As my colleague Rajeev Syal reports, the French have now told Priti Patel, the home secretary, she is no longer invited to a meeting being held on Sunday to discuss the situation.
If the Johnson letter was intended to further cooperation with the French, it has clearly backfired very badly. But because of Johnson’s decision to make it public, there are suspicions that it was written primarily for a domestic audience, rather than for the Élysée Palace, and that the PM just wants to ensure that British voters blame France, not his government, for the ongoing crossings.
On the Today programme this morning Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, insisted that Johnson had acted “in good faith” and that the letter was not “inflammatory”. He told the programme:
I think it is really important that we work hand-in-glove with the French. I don’t think there is anything inflammatory to ask for close cooperation with our nearest neighbours.
The proposal was made in good faith. I can assure our French friends of that and I hope that they will reconsider meeting up to discuss it.
Here is the agenda for the day
9.30am: MPs debate the second reading of Liam Fox’s private member’s Down syndrome bill.
9.30am: The ONS publishes provisional excess death figures for last winter.
11am: French fishers plan to block the port of Calais in protest over post-Brexit fishing licences. Later they plan to block the Channel tunnel.
11.30am: Downing Street holds its lobby briefing.
12pm: The ONS publishes its latest weekly Covid infection survey.
12pm: David Frost, the Brexit minister, meets his EU counterpart, Maroš Šefčovič, in London in the latest round of talks on the Northern Irish protocol.
2pm: Keith Brown, the SNP deputy leader (or depute leader, as the SNP calls the post, using the Scottish spelling), gives a speech at the SNP’s online conference.
Afternoon: Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru leader, will be speaking at his party conference.
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