The writer was the UK ambassador to France from 2012 to 2016 and author of Hard Choices: What Britain Did Next
The political relationship between Britain and France is the worst I have known in the forty years I have served as a diplomat. A recent Harris poll showed that this bad mood is hurting public opinion in France, where only 40% of respondents see the UK as an ally, and far below 74% for Italy and 73% for Germany and Spain.
Compare this to the mood a decade ago when David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy decided to New defense partnershipThe French watched with jealous admiration for the London Olympics and then gave a warm welcome to the Queen during her state visit in 2014.
Britain’s exit from the European Union was a turning point. Britain was widely seen in France as having not only left the EU but turned its back on its European neighbours, a perception reinforced by the Johnson government’s continued efforts to ignore Europe as it defines a new role in the world. The consequences of Brexit have also been felt in France more than in other EU countries, from the disruption of the Canal ports to arguing about fishing licenses approx Channel Islands. There have always been disagreements after Brexit. But this is more serious: a fundamental breach of trust between the two governments, particularly between Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson.
The French were shocked by the United Kingdom’s threats to abandon the Northern Ireland Protocol. Macron was furious at what he saw as Johnson provoked public animosity with him at the G7 summit in Cornwall sausage export To Northern Ireland, trying to blame the difficulties in implementing the protocol. tragic 27 immigrants died In Kanal last November should have been the time to iron out the differences. Instead, Johnson wrote a file Message to Macron Filled with proposals he knew the French could not accept, he posted them before they reached Macron’s office.
Dealing with the Aukus submarine deal with Australia was the last straw. In France to check it Fantastic contract For the US and UK, it’s always going to be tough. But the way he announced it made Macron feel insulted. Joe Biden publicly agreed Face it awkwardly A large-scale damage repair process has begun. Johnson did the opposite, making matters worse by his pupil’s mockery of the French president.
When the number 10 had an idea A New strategic alliance With France appearing in the British press, the reaction in Paris was very cold.
The blame for this unfortunate situation is not entirely London. Macron and his ministers have also been provocateurs, making irresponsible threats, such as cutting electricity to the Channel Islands. But in the past, Franco-British cooperation in areas such as business, culture and sports continued largely unaffected by political controversies, supported by a dense network of human relations. Harris’ survey reminds us that even this cannot be taken for granted. It is not that the French have become hostile to Britain, but that they are simply indifferent. The French media pay little attention to what is happening in the UK, other than the confusing coverage of the antics in Westminster. In the French presidential campaign, none of the candidates asked to restore relations with London. The real danger is that the two countries are separated, which is why the UK is short-sighted on the next generation of British and French youth by the opportunity to live and study in the other’s country through Erasmus card exchange.
After Brexit, bilateral relations with European neighbors are more important than ever. in a Speech Before the European Parliament this month, Macron said the condition for future friendship was that the British government fulfill its promise. Maybe a message for the next prime minister?
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