UK PM Sunak visits France’s Macron to discuss war in Ukraine, post-Brexit ties

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French President Emmanuel Macron greets British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before the 36th Franco-British Summit at the Elysee Palace on March 10, 2023 in Paris, France.

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said it was “time to reunite” after years of political turmoil between the two countries following Brexit.

“This summit is indeed special,” Macron said at a press conference on Friday afternoon, according to a translation. “It’s clearly a time I would say of reunion, reconnection, and new beginnings. “

His comments came as the two political leaders announced that there had been progress on illegal migration, energy and security challenges.

The UK’s Sunak admitted that bilateral relations between London and Paris had been challenging in recent years, but said Friday’s meeting “marked a new beginning” for both countries.

Among some of the agreements reached on migration, Sunak and Macron said that a new detention center would be set up in the north of France, with 500 new officers to monitor it French beaches and that more drones and surveillance technologies would be deployed.

On defense, the countries agreed to train Ukrainian navies to help Kyiv win the war against Russia, increase the interoperability of their armed forces and jointly study the development of advanced weapons. -complex such as air defense and long-range weapons.

Their working engagement marked the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders of Britain and France since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Sunak and Macron were seen warmly greeting each other at the Élysée Palace on Friday morning.

“The futures of the United Kingdom and France are linked,” Macron said via Twitter, as he welcomed Sunak to Paris. “Our challenges, shared. Preservation of our planet, support for Ukraine, cooperation in security and energy issues: together we move forward,” he said, according to a translation.

Macron and Sunak are expected to hold a press conference soon after the end of the talks.

They are expected to finalize agreements on migration routes, energy security and protection from the Russian threat. Sunak and Macron have billed the summit as an opportunity to reset their strained cross-Channel relationship.

Speaking ahead of the meeting with Macron, Sunak said, “Our deep history, proximity and shared global outlook mean that a strong partnership between the UK and France is not only invaluable, it is necessary.”

He said, “As we face new and unprecedented threats, it is imperative that we strengthen the structures of our alliance so that we are ready to meet the challenges of the future. That is what we will do at today’s UK-France Summit. “

Earlier this week, Sunak revealed plans to prevent people from crossing the English Channel in small boats.

The campaign was harshly criticized by opposition lawmakers and refugee charities. The UN refugee agency said it was “deeply concerned” about the bill, which prevents people believed to have entered the UK illegally from applying for asylum.

The UK agreed in 2022 to pay £63 million ($75.5 million) a year to France to increase surveillance on French beaches to try to stop people crossing the English Channel in boats small

Clearing the ‘political and diplomatic fog’

Analysts at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group did not expect a new announcement from the summit but did expect progress on bilateral defense cooperation and joint action to tackle illegal migration across the English Channel.

They noted that French officials have accused former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of inciting several diplomatic disputes between Paris and London. Among them are arguments over fishing rights after Brexit, Covid-19 restrictions and a French deal to sell submarines to Australia – which was scrapped by another US-UK deal with Canberra.

Analysts at Eurasia Group said there was a feeling among UK observers that Macron had deliberately made life difficult for London, following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016.

“The most important achievement of the summit was to clear the political and diplomatic fog over the English Channel, which has reduced bilateral relations between Brexit,” they said.

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