After years of tension and escalation between the French and British governments, a difficult and exceptional summit is held today in Paris between French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak , the first in 5 years.
Although the Russian invasion of Ukraine united the leaders of the European Union, and although the United Kingdom was proactive in supporting Kiev security, militarily and politically, in addition to the strong personal relationship that linked former leader Boris Johnson with President Volodymyr Zelensky , these factors did not contribute to any British-French rapprochement. Neither during Johnson’s tenure, nor during that of his successor, Liz Terrace.
Relations between the two countries did not witness a similar tension as it witnessed with Johnson’s term and with the vote to withdraw Britain from the European Union, and the subsequent crises related to trade arrangements and the Northern Ireland Protocol. While Terrace inherited from Johnson his “hostility” to Macron, Rishi Sunak arrived in “Downing Street”, disregarding the legacy of the two previous leaders. He is the wealthy economist, the son of the middle class and immigrants, and the youngest British prime minister.
File immigration and small boats
The issue of immigration and small boats will be at the top of the agenda of the summit, as British Home Secretary Soella Braverman will also attend the meetings, just two days after announcing a new bill that would allow the government to detain asylum seekers and deport them immediately to their country of origin, or to a “safe” third country such as Rwanda.
It is expected that Sunak will present to the French President an agreement that enhances cooperation between the French and British authorities to prevent migrants from reaching the shores of the United Kingdom by intensifying the activity of surveillance patrols. In return, Macron is expected to demand “annual payments of millions of pounds” to deal with this file.
It is not yet clear whether the “return agreement” is on the agenda, according to which France will take back asylum seekers who were rejected by Britain, and it is a “controversial” agreement between the two countries, according to a French diplomatic source who assured Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the negotiations over it must include All EU countries, not just France.
In addition to the Minister of the Interior, the ministers of state for foreign affairs, internal affairs, defense, energy security, transportation, environment, and food will attend the summit to discuss energy supplies, the Russian threat, and security, military, and economic alliances between the two countries.
Sunak considered that “the strong partnership between the United Kingdom and France is not only valuable; it is also necessary,” according to “Downing Street,” adding that the two countries face “new and unprecedented threats, and it is of the utmost importance that we fortify our alliance so that we are ready to face the challenges of the future.”
The two leaders are expected to agree on the importance of strengthening and increasing military and industrial cooperation, including expanding the scope of joint development of the second generation of deep-precision weapons, which NATO needs to provide protection from the growing Russian threat.
The two sides will also agree, according to Downing Street, to continue supporting Kiev in its struggle for sovereignty, by increasing military coordination, supplying weapons and training the Ukrainian marines. The UK has trained 11,000 soldiers since last summer, and recently expanded its training plan to include pilots as well.
The summit, according to Sunak, will contribute to “strengthening these efforts through more joint training that the UK is contributing to along with France, making thousands of Ukrainians more prepared for the battlefield.” The parties will also discuss “the role that NATO countries can play in providing Ukraine with security guarantees for the long-term defense of its territory.”
The ” Windsor Document ” announced by Sunak two weeks ago, after difficult talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, paved the way for opening a new page in relations between the United Kingdom and European Union countries, but the bill to stop the crossing of new boats, which was announced About Sunak two days ago, he reopened the door to disputes between the British government and the European side, represented by the European Court of Human Rights.
Although the atmosphere of disagreement is not expected to dominate today’s “historic” Paris summit, the issue of boats remains problematic, amid expectations that the government will face more legal challenges in Britain and abroad, and amid demands by some Conservative Party deputies and ministers to withdraw from the European Court.
The two leaders have a lot in common, from the banking and investment background to the issue of age as the youngest leaders in their two countries, to the internal crises that Sunak is experiencing with public sector strikes and Macron with protests to raise the retirement age.
It is expected that Sunak, immediately after the end of the Paris summit, will go to California to meet with US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, to hold talks on the “ Ocus ” security agreement, where he will announce, on Monday, the details of Australia’s new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Which is expected to be built in partnership with the United States and Britain.
Despite the “black” point in the history of the relationship between Britain and France, where the tripartite security agreement ended France’s €36 billion contract to supply Australia with submarines, the common points of agreement seem more present today than ever before.
Source : alaraby.co.uk