Paris and London are looking to improve ties with a fresh start after years of bickering over Brexit. There should be closer cooperation on defence, energy supply and curbing unwanted migration, as French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday after a meeting with cabinet members from both countries in Paris.
After the relationship between the states was sometimes difficult for years, Macron said: "This is clearly a moment of rapprochement, reconnection and new beginnings." Specifically, the two spoke out in favor of strengthening the government in Kiev for a way out of the Russian war of aggression. "We have to put our Ukrainian friends in the best possible situation so that they determine the timing and terms of the negotiations," Macron said. Sunak emphasized that a future solution is solely a matter for Ukraine. They want Ukraine to win the war. Therefore, weapons would be supplied and soldiers would be trained. The aim is a successful counter-offensive. Macron also said: "We are doing everything so that this war does not spread, does not spread worldwide."
Macron also stressed that France and Great Britain wanted to expand their defense cooperation within the framework of strategic autonomy. Beyond the Ukraine conflict, it is a question of increasing the joint military capacity and increasing the ability to cooperate in the technical and operational areas and in the troops. Projects for the joint development of a new anti-ship missile and cruise missiles are underway. Another point is the combinability of the air defense systems.
Paris and London also want to work more closely together on the issue of migration. Great Britain wants to pay France more than half a billion euros over the next three years to combat unwanted migration across the English Channel. Sunak announced that this should finance a new internment camp in northern France. A new command center is also to be built with the 541 million euros, and 500 additional border guards as well as modern drones and surveillance technology are to be used. Sunak stressed that it was a common challenge.
Brexit negotiations have left their mark
The British-French relationship was tense for years, especially after Brexit. London and Paris argued over migrants and fishing licenses. In the Brexit negotiations, Macron was considered a tough opponent of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the time. The relationship was also severely strained by a security pact that London made with the USA and Australia in the Indo-Pacific and which broke a multi-billion dollar submarine deal between Australia and France.
Sunak and Macron now seem to want to put the past behind them. In Paris they showed themselves to be very cordial. The two swapped rugby shirts, shared an umbrella and hugged twice at the joint press conference in Paris. Sunak said he was happy to serve at the same time as Macron. He closed his statement with the words "Merci, mon ami", meaning "Thank you, my friend".