Britain’s Sunk, France’s Macron to reset ties during meeting

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will visit French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, hoping to deepen their co-operation over migration and Ukraine and cement a new start between the countries after years of Brexit rows.

At talks in Paris, Sunak, who became prime minister in October, will hope to capitalize on renewed goodwill to end years of tension over issues ranging from migration to fishing.

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Bilateral ties, which have often been rocky since Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, have been fortified by the countries’ support for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, and the meeting is seen as a chance to deepen relations further.

“This summit’s priority is to reconnect,” a French presidential adviser said.

The meeting also comes as relations between Britain and the EU have also improved in light of the Windsor Framework - a new agreement with the bloc aimed at fixing problems with Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Later this month, King Charles will also travel to France on his first state visit as monarch.

Sunak and Macron struck up a personal rapport at the COP27 summit in Egypt in November during their first face-to-face meeting, two weeks after Sunak became prime minister, with their warm relationship labelled “Le Bromance” in British newspapers.

Sunak has sought a reset with France after relations soured under his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, and is looking to work with Paris on tackling the large numbers of migrants that arrive in southern England in small boats.

In November, Britain and France signed an agreement worth 72.2 million euros ($74.5 million) to ramp up efforts to stop illegal migrants from making perilous journeys across the Channel.

The issue is expected to be high on the agenda of Friday’s meeting too, with Sunak expected to raise the issue with a view to doing more to stop the crossings.

A source at Number 10, the prime minister’s office, said it was vital London could work with Paris on the global challenge of migration, to increase patrols and clamp down on gangs operating the boats.

“This Friday’s summit will be an opportunity to do just that,” the source said.

Fighter jets

Britain on Tuesday set out details of a new law barring the entry of asylum seekers arriving in small boats across the Channel, a proposal some charities say could be impractical and criminalize the efforts of thousands of genuine refugees.

Asked about the British government’s announcement on small boats, French officials said it did not change the fact that since Brexit, there was no bilateral deal on how to readmit migrants in France.

“At this stage we see no major impact for French coasts. It’s not as if we had a legal instrument since Brexit that helped us regulate the flow of migrants between the two coasts,” one official said.

Analysts said the migrant issue was not as hot a political issue in France as it is in Britain.

“But Paris knows this is an incredibly salient issue for the PM but also his party, the Labor Party and many Britons,” said Georgina Wright, an analyst at the Institut Montaigne in Paris.

“Some new things will be announced but they will probably fall short of what London is hoping for.”

The French are keen to deepen defense ties, including through the joint training of Ukrainian soldiers, and also want to make their two competing future fighter jet programs, FCAS and Tempest, compatible, Elysee advisers say.

Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, with a British ship joining French naval patrols in the region, will also be part of the summit’s main points, they said, as will nuclear energy, including funding for EDF’s Sizewell C nuclear project in Britain.

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