On Wednesday the 24th of November 2021, 27 people drowned in the cold waters of the English Channel. They were migrants, attempting to illegally enter England from Calais.

The tragedy was the greatest single loss of life in the Channel since records started in 2014, according to the International Organization for Migrations. Due to this, a meeting was scheduled in Calais. Invited were ministers from Germany, The Netherlands, and Belgium, as well as European Commission officials and, originally, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom Priti Patel. But on Thursday the 25th, another divide arose between the UK and France – not the tumultuous waters of the Channel, but an equally choppy row between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Macron.

The argument started – as many do – with a Twitter post. Said post was an open letter from Johnson to Macron, published at 8:49 – just in time for the headlines. In the letter, Johnson put forward suggestions for intercepting illegal migrants, requesting Macron to “consider”: “joint or reciprocal... patrols” of French and British waters; utilizing “more advanced technology including ground sensors and radar”; “airborne surveillance… perhaps flying under joint insignia”; and “better real time intelligence sharing to deliver arrests and prosecutions on both sides of the Channel”. Johnson “formally request[ed]” that joint patrols are established, stating that “we are ready to begin such patrols from the start of next week”. In addition to this, the PM proposed that the UK be allowed to return “all illegal migrants who cross the Channel” to France. President Macron was, maybe understandably, miffed. In a speech, he attacked Johnson, suggesting that he was not taking the issue seriously, and said that “the ministers will work seriously to settle a serious issue with serious people”. As such, the French interior minister Gérald Darmanin has informed the Home Secretary Priti Patel that her attendance would no longer be welcome at the meeting on Sunday the 28th. He also referred to the letter as a “disappointment”.

To an extent, you can see why the French would be so peeved. There are various possible reasons why Johnson might have Tweeted the letter, and it’s not difficult to imagine Macron’s thought process (conformation has been given from the French government that Macron had not seen the letter before Johnson posted it to Twitter). For instance, the posting of the letter could be construed as an attempt to force Macron’s hand into agreeing to Johnson’s requests. On the other hand, it could simply be a way for Johnson to pander to the British population – an open letter published on Twitter makes a far bigger splash in the lilypond of politics, after all. Either way, Johnson looks – to the French – self-motivated at best and downright manipulative at worst.

Does this give Macron the moral high ground? Absolutely not. However incensed the President may be, it is an irresponsible decision to bar the home secretary from Sunday’s conference. The action may seem like a simple slight, but it damages the UK’s image – Patel may not do the majority of the work at such conferences, but a figure of authority is vital. Without good cooperation and collaboration between the UK and France, there is little hope that this appalling and tragic problem will be solved – after all, Johnson’s letter posed perfectly reasonable points, despite the controversial method of delivery. And as more refugees hurl themselves headfirst into the Channel’s deadly November tempests, Johnson and Macron bicker. It is a depressing portrayal of the state of both countries, but sadly, it’s hardly surprising.