As part of the 35th UK-France Summit, President of France Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister of the United Kingom Theresa May agreed today to work together more on issues such as defence cooperation and border security, especially at Calais.
Strengthening the border at Calais
President Macron reportedly argued beforehand that the UK had to pay more to help France deal with migrants in Calais, or France would no longer allow the UK border control to remain there. Under the current situation, the UK border is effectively in Calais, and the French border in Dover. In his campaign, Macron mentioned he wanted to renegotiate the deal that facilitated this.
Prime Minister May pledged an additional £44.5 million to contribute to the border at Calais, being spent on items such as fencing and CCTV.
The new treaty on cooperating on border management, the so-called ‘Sandhurst treaty’, would also speed up the processing of migrants coming to the UK, Macron said.
Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP and MEP, branded the treaty as “capitulation.”
“Why are we paying Emmanuel Macron £45 million and taking more migrants at the same time? That’s not a deal — it’s a humiliating capitulation by Theresa May.”
Cooperating more in defence
France agreed to further French support to the UK-led NATO battlegroup in Estonia, in order to bolster the security of NATO’s east. The UK and France also agreed to create a Defence Ministerial Council, a permanent and regular forum in which defence cooperation can be discussed by their respective defence ministers.
It was also agreed that it was important for the UK’s defence industry to be able to continue to be able to engage in European defence research and capability development programmes, likely referring at least in part to the EU’s new proposed European Defence Fund, which will help finance defence research and projects.
Finally, the UK also pledged to deploy helicopters to Mali to provide logistical support to the French counter-terrorism mission deployed there.
No “punishments” or “rewards” on Brexit
Macron said that Brexit was not the main focus of the talks. He respects the UK decision, but also regrets it. He said he hoped that the Brexit talks don’t affect the wider relationship between France and the UK.
In his remarks, Macron said he wasn’t there to punish or reward the UK, but said he wanted to preserve the single market, which is “very much at the heart of the European Union”.
“If you want access to the single market, including financial services, be my guest. But it means that you need to contribute to the budget and acknowledge European jurisdiction. Such are the rules. We know this is the system already in place for Norway.”
Macron also said that the UK and France share common challenges and have a shared destiny, and also that he wants the countries to have the same approach to foreign policy.
Bayeux Tapestry to move for first time in centuries
President Macron also offered to loan the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the invasion of England by the Normans, to the UK in 2022, saying that both the UK and France were “making a new tapestry together.” This would mark the first time the tapestry had been on UK soil in many centuries.