BORIS Johnson’s judgment is again under scrutiny after he exacerbated a diplomatic row with France over migrants crossing the English Channel.

Instead of using bilateral talks, the Prime Minister posted a letter with a five-point plan on Twitter on Thursday night in time to make newspaper headlines the following morning.

The letter, addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron, called on France to take back migrants who successfully made the crossing.

Mr Johnson added: “If those who reach this country were swiftly returned, the incentive for people to put their lives in the hands of traffickers would be significantly reduced.

“This would be the single biggest step we could take together to reduce the draw to Northern France and break the business model of criminal gangs.”

It backfired spectacularly.

The move resulted in the French withdrawing their invitation to Home Secretary Priti Patel to attend a meeting on the migrant crisis, which saw 27 people drown on Wednesday.

French interior minister Gérald Darmanin wrote to Ms Patel saying the UK would no longer be part of a meeting of European countries in Calais on Sunday to discuss the crisis.

The French Government’s official spokesman said the letter Mr Johnson tweeted had been “mediocre in terms of the content, and wholly inappropriate as regards the form”.

“It basically proposes a ‘relocation’ agreement, which is clearly not what’s needed to solve this problem. We’re sick and tired of this double talk and outsourcing of problems,” he said.

The UK and France are already at loggerheads over the post-Brexit licensing of French boats to fish off in British waters.

Mr Johnson’s plan included joint UK-French patrols by border officials at French beaches to stop boats leaving, a move Paris has long resisted, but which the PM said could start next week. 

Mr Johnson also called for talks to begin on a bilateral returns agreement, saying it could have “an immediate and significant impact” on the flow of people attempting the crossing.

At a press conference on Friday, Mr Macron attacked Mr Johnson over the posting of the letter on Twitter, saying: "I spoke two days ago with Prime Minster Johnson in a serious way.

"For my part I continue to do that, as I do with all countries and all leaders. 

"I am surprised by methods when they are not serious.

"We do not communicate from one leader to another on these issues by tweets and letters that we make public. 

"We are not whistleblowers. Come on. Come on."

Mr Macron set up Sunday's talks, which will be attended by  Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted Mr Johnson’s proposals were made in “good faith”, and appealed to the French to reconsider their decision to withdraw the invitation to Ms Patel.

“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 co-operation with our nearest neighbours,” he told BBC Radio 4.

Downing Street also sought to play down the row insisting Mr Johnson’s letter had been written in a “spirit of partnership and co-operation”.

A No 10 spokesman said the all the measures had been raised by the Government before, adding: “This is about deepening our existing co-operation and the work that is already being done between our two countries. We want to work extremely closely with the French on this shared problem and we want to take work forward in that vein.”

Mr Johnson has faced a torrid two weeks after sparking a wave of stories about Tory sleaze at Westminster after trying to change the rules when Tory Owen Paterson faced a suspension.

Despite reluctant Tory MPs being whipped to vote for the plan, it survived barely a few hours after the opposition parties refused to go along with it.

Mr Johnson backed down and Mr Paterson quit, creating a byelection in North Shropshire. 

The Prime Minister then had a dismal start to this week with a much-derided speech to the CBI in which he lost his place and appeared to ramble about Peppa Pig World.

Rishi Sunak’s Treasury was also reported to be exasperated with Number 10’s habit of undermining big spending announcements by over-promising so much that even tens of billions of pounds look inadequate.