06 October 2022

Truss and ‘friend’ Macron signal progress on Channel crossing

06 October 2022

Liz Truss hailed Emmanuel Macron as a “friend” on Thursday, as the two countries signalled that a new agreement could be close to tackle small-boat crossings in the Channel.

The pair met at the first summit of the European Political Community in Prague, a gathering pushed for by the French president.

There, the pair said they looked forward to “an ambitious package of measures this autumn” to address issue of migration across the Channel.

And in a sign that Ms Truss hopes to improve relations with Mr Macron, she had no hesitation in labelling him a “friend”, just weeks after refusing to do so.

Then-foreign secretary Ms Truss was widely criticised after she declined to say whether Mr Macron was a “friend or foe” when asked during the Tory leadership contest.

Mr Macron later suggested it was a “problem” if Britain could not call itself a friend of France.

But Prime Minister Ms Truss adopted a different tone ahead of a meeting with Mr Macron in Prague on Thursday.

She told broadcasters: “I work very, very closely with President Macron and the French government and what we’re talking about is how the UK and France can work more closely together to build more nuclear power stations and to make sure that both countries have energy security in the future.

“We’re both very clear the foe is Vladimir Putin, who has through his appalling war in Ukraine threatened freedom and democracy in Europe and pushed up energy prices which we’re now all having to deal with.”

Asked if he was then a friend, Ms Truss said: “He is a friend.”

The bi-lateral meeting between the two leaders, which took place towards the end of the day, appeared to signal some progress on the issues of migration and energy, both areas Ms Truss had raised as priorities ahead of the summit.

“Thank you for being here,” Mr Macron told the PM when they met.

It also emerged that the two countries have agreed to hold a joint summit next year to “take forward a renewed bilateral agenda”, in a further sign of the desire for warmer relations between the two countries.

On migration, a joint statement said the leaders “agreed to deepen cooperation on illegal migration within the bounds of international law, to tackle criminal groups trafficking people across Europe, ending in dangerous journeys across the Channel”.

PA news agency analysis of government figures shows 7,961 people arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel in September.

As well as stressing a “determination to provide all necessary support to Ukraine for as long as it takes to restore Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity”, the two leaders also discussed future co-operation on energy.

“They confirmed the full support of the UK and French governments for the new nuclear power station at Sizewell and expect the relevant bodies to finalise arrangements in the coming month,” the statement said.

“The leaders committed to advance and increase UK-France civil-nuclear co-operation, including on innovation, infrastructure development and workforce skills, ahead of next year’s UK-France summit.

“They further agreed to deepen co-operation on illegal migration within the bounds of international law, to tackle criminal groups trafficking people across Europe, ending in dangerous journeys across the Channel.

“Interior ministers should conclude an ambitious package of measures this autumn.

“Leaders agreed to reinforce co-operation with near neighbours, including through an early meeting of the Calais group.”

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