Paris. The similarities were evident when the French president welcomed the British prime minister in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace in Paris on Friday. Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron are the sons of doctors, former bankers and finance ministers. After a stellar rise in politics, they are now facing mass protests. They can use positive titles. A Franco-British government summit, attended by seven ministers from both sides, seemed a good opportunity to do so. This is the first time in five years.
Both set a new tone in bilateral relations. Macron spoke of a “good exchange” and a “new beginning”. He welcomed the recent “Windsor Agreement” between the EU and London on Northern Ireland.
Earlier, Sunak called France a “friend, partner, ally”. It was a stark contrast to her predecessor Liz Truss’s tactical reluctance last year when asked whether the neighbor was friend or foe. Macron, who once described his predecessor Boris Johnson as a “clown”, caught a cold.
Now the French side wants to use the meeting primarily to mend its ailing relationship with London. Relations between the neighbors have suffered greatly as a result of Brexit and its implementation, with Macron often proving to be an uncontrollable interlocutor. There were serious disputes over fishing rights in the English Channel which were later settled. Paris felt betrayed as a result of the “Aukus” submarine deal between the UK, USA and Australia, which undermined the existing agreement between France and Australia.
More than 500 million euros
Against illegal immigration
Another eternal debate between the two countries is how to deal with migrants arriving in Great Britain from France via the English Channel in small boats. 45,000 people are counted in 2022, more than ever before. Sunak now wants to act as a deterrent by threatening refugees with asylum and immediate deportation – without the right to asylum. Alan Manning of the London School of Economics pointed out that London “will ultimately be able to handle the situation only with the help of France”. Great Britain will pay France more than half a billion euros over the next three years. It intends to finance a new detention center in northern France, Sunac announced on Friday. An additional 500 Border Security Force personnel will be deployed.
According to former British Ambassador to France Peter Ricketts, the rapprochement between the two countries can be explained by a single word, Ukraine. “We’re the two biggest military powers in Europe, so it seems crazy not to work more closely together.” They want to cooperate more closely, among other things, in training the Ukrainian armed forces. This gave them “a decisive advantage on the battlefield,” Sunak asserted. A joint weapons program for an anti-ship missile is also to be pursued.
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