Sunak and Macron hail ‘new chapter’ in UK-France ties – POLITICO

Sunak and Macron hail ‘new chapter’ in UK-France ties – POLITICO

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PARIS — Vegetarian sushi and rugby have brought the leaders of Britain and France together after years of Brexit rows.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday held the two countries’ first bilateral summit in five years, amid warm words and aspirations for closer cooperation after Brexit.

“It was an extraordinary summit, a moment of reunification and reconnection, which illustrates that we want to communicate better with each other,” Macron told a joint press conference afterwards. “We have the will to work together in a Europe with new responsibilities.”

Significantly from London’s perspective, the pair agreed on a new multi-annual financial framework to jointly tackle the arrival of undocumented migrants in small boats through the English Channel — in part funding a new detention center in France.

“The UK and France share a special bond and a special responsibility,” Sunak said. “When the security of our Continent is threatened, we are always at the forefront of its defense.”

Macron congratulated Sunak on agreeing the Windsor Framework with the European Commission, ending a long UK-EU row over post-Brexit trade policies with Northern Ireland, stressing that it marked “a new beginning of working closer to the EU.”

“I am very fortunate to serve with you and very excited about the future we can build together. Thank you,” said Sunak.

It had been many years since the British and French leaders had been so comfortable with each other.

Sunak and Macron bonded over rugby, ahead of Saturday’s match between England and France, and exchanged T-shirts signed by their respective teams.

They later met alone at the Élysée Palace for more than an hour, with only their chiefs of staff at the very end of the meeting, which was described as “warm and productive” by Sunak’s official spokesman. The pair, who speak English, had planned to hold a shorter one-to-one session, but they decided to extend it, the spokesman said.

They later met with their respective ministers for a lunch consisting of vegetarian sushi, turbot, artichokes and praline tarts.

Macron congratulated Sunak on agreeing to the Windsor Framework with the European Commission | Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking on Eurostar Going in Paris, Sunak told reporters that it was the beginning of a “new chapter” in Franco-British relations.

“It’s been great getting to know Emmanuel over the past two months. There’s a shared desire to strengthen the relationship,” he said. “I really believe that the range of things we can do together is very significant.”

In a show of goodwill from the French, who have vigorously pushed for a hard line during Brexit talks, Macron said he wanted to “fix the consequences of Brexit” and opened the door to closer cooperation with the Brits in the future.

“This is my request and it is in our interests to have the closest possible alliance. It will depend on our commitment and willingness but I am sure we will do it,” he said alongside Sunak.

Dealing with small boats

Under the terms of the new migration deal, Britain will pay €141 million to France in 2023-24, €191 million in 2024-25 and €209 million in 2025-26.

This money will come piecemeal and will go towards funding a new detention center in France, a new Franco-British command centre, an extra 500 law enforcement officers on French beaches and better technology to patrol them, including more drones and surveillance aircraft.

The new detention center, located in the Dunkirk area, will be funded by the British and run by the French and will help compensate for the lack of space in other detention centers in northern France, according to one of Macron’s aides.

According to UK and French officials, France is expected to contribute significantly more funding — up to five times the amount the British are contributing — to the plan although the Elysée declined to provide exact figures.

A new, permanent French mobile policing unit will join efforts to tackle small boats. This work will be overseen by a new zonal coordination centre, where UK liaison officers are permanently based in collaboration with French counterparts.

Sunak stressed UK-French cooperation on small boats since November had made a significant difference, and defended the decision to hand more British money to France to help patrol the northern French coast. . Irregular migration, he insisted, is a “joint problem.”

unity of Ukraine

Sunak and Macron have also shown solidarity on the war in Ukraine, agreeing that their priority is to continue to support the country in its war against Russian aggression.

The French president said “the short-term ambition is to help Ukraine fight back and develop counter-offensives.”

“The priority is military,” he said. “We want lasting peace, when Ukraine wants it and under the conditions it wants and our will is to put it in a position to do so.”

The West’s main priority should remain helping the Ukrainians achieve “a decisive advantage on the battlefield” that eventually allows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to sit at the negotiating table with Russian President Vladimir Putin from a stronger position, Sunak said on the way to the summit.

“That’s what everyone should focus on,” he added. “Of course, it will end like all conflicts, at the negotiating table. But that is a decision for Ukraine to make. And what we need to do is put them in the best place to have those conversations at the right moment that makes sense for them.”

The two leaders also announced that they would begin joint training operations of Ukrainian marines.