Can France & UK Reboot Rocky Post-Brexit Ties?

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, shakes hands with President of France, Emmanuel Macron, Nov. 7, 2022.InternationalIndiaAfricaEver since the 2016 referendum on European Union membership, when Britain opted to quit the bloc, relations between London and Paris have been on a roller-coaster, with issues ranging from illegal migration across the Channel to post-Brexit fishing licenses for UK waters souring ties.Emmanuel Macron is hosting Rishi Sunak on Friday in what will be the first bilateral summit between a UK prime minister and a French president in five years, with the visit billed by both Paris and London as an opportunity to reboot ties.The relationship between the two countries has been a fraught one post-Brexit, since Britain voted in a referendum to leave the European Union in 2016. As divorces often are, this split was also messy, leaving the UK and France at loggerheads over a swathe of issues. Fishing rights, the surge of cross-Channel illegal migration, the contentious Northern Ireland border issue, and the submarine spat have all soured relations, with officials, analysts, and the media now speculating whether the rankling disputes can be set aside, allowing the two countries to recalibrate ties.

Arming Ukraine

The shared pledge to continue arming the Kiev regime and thus feeding the fire of conflagration in Ukraine is one of the aspects that have been touted as able to turn this Franco-British summit into a bridge-building one for the two sides.On the eve of the summit, PM Rishi Sunak underscored in a statement that both countries have a “privileged role as defenders of European and global security.”

"Our deep history, our proximity and our shared global outlook mean that a firm partnership between the UK and France is not just valuable, it is essential. As we face new and unprecedented threats, it is vital that we fortify the structures of our alliances so we are ready to take on the challenges of the future," the PM said.

Despite repeated warnings from Russia to all Western countries about the dangers of continuing to pump Kiev with military support and thus threatening to turn the Ukraine conflict into a long and brutal conflagration, Sunak and Macron will agree to “further coordinate both the supply of weapons to Ukraine… both now and in the long-term,” a Downing Street 10 statement said on the eve of the face-off. The actions of Russia, which has been conducting a special military operation in Ukraine since February 2022, were declared to be “the biggest threat to European, and global, security” in the UK government’s statement.”As part of their talks, the Prime Minister and President Macron are expected to agree to further enhance UK-France military interoperability and industrial cooperation, including agreeing to scope the co-development of next-generation deep precision strike weaponry – the kind of long-range capability which NATO needs to protect against the growing threat from Russia,” No 10 added.Macron and Sunak are also expected to agree to further coordinate the training of Ukrainian Marines, with the UK having already trained 11,000 troops since last summer, with the British side recently expanding that training to include Ukrainian pilots. Russia’s Special Operation in UkraineUK Defense Chief Ready to Send More Tanks to Ukraine to Replace Losses as Army Runs Critically Low23 February, 18:55 GMT

Channel Migration

At the Franco-British summit in Paris, the two sides are expected to focus on boosting cooperation to tackle the so-called “small boats” problem, with Sunak’s government eying a bilateral “returns agreement” with Paris.So far this year, around 3,000 people have arrived on small boats via the Channel, while over 45,000 people entered the UK along that dangerous route in 2022, up from an estimated 300 in 2018. The migrant issue has been a bone of contention between London and Paris. In November, the sides penned a deal worth 72.2 million euros ($74.5 million) to enhance efforts to stop illegal migrants. Just recently, the UK unveiled its latest crackdown on such asylum seekers with its new Illegal Migration Bill, unveiled Tuesday. The legislation seeks to slash the number of people attempting the perilous journey from France by making it easier to detain and deport them. Those caught making illegal crossings would be deported to a third country and forbidden from returning to the UK or applying for citizenship.So far, French officials have been cited as playing down any expectations of major breakthroughs regarding a returns agreement with Paris, which has been insisting that it be negotiated at the EU level. Furthermore, Elysée officials reportedly want Britain to commit to longer-term funding of migrant-tackling operations.WorldUK Home Secretary Defies UN and BBC’s Gary Lineker on Illegal Immigrant Law8 March, 13:47 GMTOn the eve of the summit, Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman was cited as saying:”We want to do more and we also believe France wants to stop these illegal gangs exploiting people… Certainly we are going in there with an ambition to go further on stopping the boats making these dangerous crossings.”

Asia-Pacific Security

The leaders of Western Europe’s two nuclear powers are also expected to discuss ensuring a “permanent presence of likeminded European partners” in the Asia-Pacific, “whose security is indivisible from that of Europe,” the Downing Street statement issued ahead of the Paris summit said. This presupposes coordinating deployment of France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier with the UK Royal Navy’s new carriers, such as the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.According to No 10, heightened allied efforts in the Indo-Pacific to set up the UK and France as the “backbone” of a permanent European maritime presence in the region were prompted by a need to respond to “the challenge posed by China.” Also discussed will purportedly be strengthening the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF), which is a British-French military force comprising 10,000 personnel.The defense talks between the sides come after a simmering row about the trilateral AUKUS pact, which resulted in the UK and US agreeing to assist Australia in building nuclear-powered submarines. The deal triggered friction and angered Paris, as Australia opted to renege on a deal previously agreed between the two states on supplying Canberra with diesel-powered submarines.The Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) missile program will also purportedly come up for discussion between Sunak and Macron. The latter is a new generation cruise missile program being developed jointly by the two states that Paris brought to a halt in September 2021 post-AUKUS.Sputnik ExplainsHow Aid to Ukraine Has Left Britain’s Military in a Sorry State6 February, 18:55 GMTOther main agenda points at the Paris summit will reportedly be nuclear energy, as British integrated energy company EDF Energy, owned by French EDF (Électricité de France), revealed on March 9 that it will extend the lifetimes of its Hartlepool and Heysham 1 nuclear plants in Britain by two years, until March 2026. Funding for EDF’s Sizewell C nuclear project in Britain is also said to be under discussion.The current Franco-British summit also comes in the wake of the Windsor Framework – a new agreement with the EU seeking to mend fences with the bloc over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements. Rishi Sunak hailed a “new chapter” in ties with Brussels after London struck a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol with the bloc in late February.Nevertheless, a great deal of work is yet to be done to achieve headway on issues that have frayed relations between the UK and France. As the issue of arming Ukraine increasingly becomes a divisive one for Western countries, all eyes will be on the Elysée Palace summit, to see if a line can be drawn under years of post-Brexit rancor.AnalysisWho is Poised to Win and Lose From Northern Ireland Protocol Replacement?28 February, 12:52 GMT


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *