It is downright foolish to continue the fake wars of Britain’s Brexit battles with France while a real conflict is being fought in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Liz Truss must seize the opportunity to restore Anglo-French relations when she meets French leader Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
An unpredictable Russia is lagging behind. It is time to put an end to any suggestion of division between NATO allies, Europe’s two main military powers.
In recent years, London and Paris have clashed over Brexit, coronavirus vaccines, the Aukus submarine row and migrants crossing the Channel.
A low point was reached when the Royal Navy and French boats shadowed each other off the coast of Jersey during the post-Brexit fishing rights dispute in 2021.
Macron, who views former Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a populist liar, has certainly played his part in deteriorating relations to their worst in modern times.
It was his administration that threatened to cut off Jersey’s energy supplies in the post-Brexit fishing license dispute ahead of April’s presidential election.
Macron won his second term and now wants to rebuild broken bridges. Mrs. Truss also won her election and should do the same.
The French President’s speeches to the British people after the death of Queen Elizabeth II have been sensitive and deliberate. He has underlined the “unbreakable” ties between the UK and France.
She was your queen to you. To us she was the queen. She will be with us forever. pic.twitter.com/PaL1DRmlHK
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) September 9, 2022
Mr Macron’s attitude towards Russia has moved closer to that of Britain as it became apparent that his attempts at diplomacy towards Putin had failed.
After the discovery of mass graves in Russian-occupied Izyum last week, Macron warned there can be “no peace without justice”.
France, like Britain, has reinforced Europe’s eastern flank with troops and weapons sent to Ukraine.
Ms Truss will make her support for Ukraine the center of her speech to the UN. Macron has said the war in Ukraine and food and energy security would be “shared priorities” with Britain.
Mr Johnson’s defenestration makes resetting easier, despite Ms Truss’ casual campaign error in suggesting the “jury is gone” on whether Mr Macron was a friend or foe of Britain.
There was talk of a high-profile Anglo-French summit with Mr Johnson, an idea that Ms Truss should revive.
London is understandably wary of Mr Macron’s suggestion that the UK could join its darling project of a European political community of EU and non-EU states. Nobody wants to join a shadow EU, but better relations are clearly desirable.
The problem remains, as always, Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol.
For the ardently pro-EU, Mr Macron, the British threats to unilaterally renounce the Irish Sea border treaty are unacceptable and will demand retaliation if implemented.
Ms Truss wants leaders like Mr Macron to change the European Commission’s negotiating mandate to allow for a large-scale reformulation of the Brexit treaty.
There is currently little interest in EU capitals for that, which may convince the Prime Minister that she has no choice but to tear up the treaty with the Northern Ireland Protocol Act.
The tentative reset in Anglo-French relations would not survive.
Ms Truss also met the President of the European Commission, who is responsible for the talks, in New York and London and Brussels said she was ready to negotiate.
Mr Macron and Ms Truss can draw a line under Brexit for now and focus on what unites them rather than divides them.
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