Macron blinks first! French PM to write to Boris and offer new deal on migrant crossings

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said Mr Castex will be writing to Boris Johnson on Tuesday with proposals for a “balanced agreement” between the UK and the EU.

He said discussions could take place “very quickly” if the British are prepared to enter negotiations in a “serious spirit”.

A Government source said it appeared to be a “positive” move after the diplomatic row which erupted following the capsize last week of a migrant boat with the loss of 27 lives.

Mr Johnson infuriated French president Emmanuel Macron when he posted a letter on Twitter calling for joint patrols on French beaches and the return to France of migrants who succeed in making the dangerous Channel crossing.

Mr Macron said it was not a serious way to negotiate, while Home Secretary Priti Patel was disinvited from a meeting in Calais on Sunday of ministers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany to discuss the crisis.

The two leaders – already at loggerheads over post-Brexit arrangements – have accused each other of not doing enough to manage migration after 27 people died on Wednesday trying to cross the Channel.

But speaking at a press conference on Monday, Mr Darmanin said the two countries needed to work together to deal with a shared problem.

He said: “From the moment there is no more double-speak, and we can discuss in a serious spirit, and our private exchanges correspond to our public exchanges, the French government is ready to very quickly resume discussions with Great Britain.”

Mr Darmanin also said the proposals by Mr Castex could include ways to open up legal routes to the UK and for asylum seekers and to allow unaccompanied minors to join relatives in Britain.

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Mr Johnson is due to hold talks online with another of the key European players – Belgian prime minister Alexander de Croo.

Downing Street continues to insist a returns agreement, as set out by Mr Johnson in his letter, would be the “single biggest deterrent” to migrants attempting the Channel crossing.

Following French criticism that British labour market rules make it too easy for migrants to find work, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government was taking action to overhaul the asylum system.

He said: “The single biggest deterrent, the single biggest step we could take together with the French would be a returns agreement, as the Prime Minister set out last week.

“But we are already taking steps through our Nationality and Borders Bill to reduce the pull factors to the UK and make our asylum system firmer but fairer.”

After talks on Sunday, it was agreed that a plane, operated by European Union border agency Frontex, will monitor the shores of the Channel for people crossing from December 1.

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

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