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Can Britain and France put aside their differences?

smallsix months Liz Truss previously claimed during her campaign to lead the Conservative Party that she did not know if Emmanuel Macron was “friend or foe”. Her successor, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has no such concerns. On March 10, he will lead a group of eager ministers up the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris for a summit with the French president and government.Negotiate with new European Union With Northern Ireland in his pocket, Mr Sunak will hope that gets more from the French. It might be harder than he thought.

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The first Franco-British summit was held in Rambouillet in 1976 under the leadership of Valéry Guiscard d’Estaing and James Callaghan. Since then, these meetings have become an almost annual event. In the 1980s and 1990s, François Mitterrand won 12 times; Jacques Chirac, who succeeded him as president, got 11. But Brexit and its damaging aftermath mean there hasn’t been a single bilateral summit between the two countries since talks between Macron’s government and Theresa May’s government at Sandhurst in 2018 .

A defining feature of events in Paris is that it is happening. Brexit has emptied the diary of the routine meetings that used to bring ministers together. During Boris Johnson’s administration, trust across channels has completely collapsed. After a period marked by insults and threats to deal, the meeting was a positive sign that the two governments were ready to sit down and talk seriously. France initially suggested holding the summit in the northern town of Arras, but moved to Paris to please Downing Street, said an official involved. With war on the continent, it seems like a pretty good idea for Europe’s two nuclear powers and permanent members of the UN Security Council to try to make headway.

The summit could help forge closer cooperation on some bilateral issues, such as nuclear energy, university research or student mobility. Efforts to curb the dangerous crossings of “small boats” may be made, as Britain hopes – although France utterly rejects Britain’s idea of ​​systematically returning immigrants from French land across the Channel to France. In November, Britain agreed to pay more to help France patrol its Channel coast, and France agreed to let British police oversee such operations.

The meeting could also lay the groundwork for future talks in other important areas of cooperation, particularly defense and security.Mr Macron has long argued that France and European Union There should be closer cooperation with post-Brexit Britain in these areas. In that spirit, five years ago all five heads of intelligence services in both countries were invited to the Sandhurst summit.In fact, the option to strengthen ties between the two countries European Union In these areas, the United Kingdom was written into the Brexit political declaration. Mr Johnson chose to ignore it.

On the ground, the militaries of the two countries continue to cooperate well, especially as NATO Estonian battle group. United Expeditionary Force (cjef), established in 2010 by Britain and France, can now deploy 10,000 troops in a crisis. The French are keen to have serious discussions about defense and industrial cooperation, not just warm words and celebrations of new friendships.

However, more ambitious plans may be difficult to achieve.Britain is still instinctively looking for NATO and the United States in terms of security.that mutual trust leads to cjefLack of opening remarks for the 2010 Franco-British summit at Lancaster House. The two countries are then poised to make unusually bold joint commitments, including building a shared facility in France to test nuclear warhead designs. Alexandre Holroyd, a representative of Macron’s party, whose constituency includes French voters living in Britain, said the Northern Ireland deal “comes too late and affects far more than the atmosphere”.

It has not escaped France’s attention that Britain, the United States and Australia will travel to Washington just days after the summit. direct currentfinalize details OkusThe trilateral defense pact, signed in 2021, derailed a French contract to supply submarines to Australia, disrupting France’s Indo-Pacific security strategy and angering the French government. “Okus still casts a shadow over a relationship that London does not seem to have fully grasped,” said Georgina Wright of the Institut Montaigne, a Paris-based think tank.

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