Following years of rising tensions, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron will meet to discuss issues surrounding the English Channel.
Despite the close similarities between the two leaders, the maritime problems continue to sour the mood between the two European nations.
A shaky bromance?
As Europe remains shaken by Brexit and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is hoped that the UK and France find new ground. An article by the BBC described the similarities between their leaders, with Sunak and Macron both being esteemed former investment bankers from elite schools, with early experiences in leadership.
However, both leaders are said to be rather unpopular; Sunak who became Prime Minister after his predecessor, Liz Truss, resigned, while Macron’s administration barely survived a rough election period.
The upcoming summit between the two will come on Mar. 10, when they will discuss topics surrounding immigration, the environment, challenges from Russia and China, and more. Summits between the two countries used to happen almost every year, but Brexit’s impact forced a five-year hiatus.
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With Russia’s war in Ukraine, there have been new calls for better cooperation, to “reset” the relationship, the Guardian reported.
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Sunak will be focusing on migration, while Macron is expected to discuss the defense and security of the region.
The British ambassador to France, Menna Rawlings, told French news that cooperation between the two nations is crucial.
French political commentator Pierre Haski believes that Macron will make a show of the UK and France’s positions as European powerhouses, possessing both United Nations seats and nuclear arsenals. Haski also said that Macron “has seen his dream finally” come to life, but it is the U.S. that is heading nations against Russia’s influence.
“He needs to be seen to be playing the NATO game,” Haski told the BBC.
On the other hand, Sunak is still adamant in addressing the issue of migration, with many people going far and beyond to cross the English Channel to Britain using small boats. Around 46,000 people have crossed the Channel last year alone, which led to tragic deaths and sparked a blame game between the two countries.
The UK says France has not done enough to stop the boats, but France defends itself by claiming that they receive more asylum claims than the UK every year.
“Migration is not only an issue for the UK,” an Elysee official said. “We need to accept a broader focus. It is not Britain versus the continent, or Britain versus France. It is very much a global issue.”
Sunak’s proposed new draft immigration law, which would block people from making asylum claims in the UK, was lambasted by France as “an issue for UK domestic politics.”
Regardless, the Elysee hopes that the summit will be a step in the right direction, a chance for Sunak and Macron to make things right.
“The return to diplomatic normality and serious work between the two governments is a big relief for everyone,” said Pauline Schapper, professor of contemporary British civilization at the Sorbonne university.
Sunak is also said to be joining another meeting with members of the AUKUS strategic alliance, consisting of Australia, the UK and the U.S.