Europe

Rishi Sunak could have ‘bromance’ with Emmanuel Macron

Rishi Sunak shares first video from 10 Downing Street

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already started engaging with world leaders this week as he begins his time in office. He had friendly exchanges with US President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky upon entering No10. However, Mr Sunak will also face more difficult conversations with the EU over Brexit and France’s Emmanuel Macron as Paris-London relations suffer.

Prior to Liz Truss’ short time as Prime Minister, she made ramped up tensions by refusing to say whether the French President was a “friend or foe”. However, some believe that Mr Sunak and Mr Macron could have a much better relationship.

The Spectator published an article this week that suggested they could share an unlikely “bromance”, and various experts believe Mr Sunak help improve French-British relations.

Peter Ricketts, Britain’s ambassador to France between 2012 and 2016, believes that while big differences in opinion remain, Mr Sunak will be better liked than his predecessors.

He told the Washington Post: “The differences in policy and program are still quite deep…Sunak doesn’t have [former prime minister Boris] Johnson’s habit of mocking and denigrating international leaders.

“He’s a much more respectful, serious politician, and I think probably he and Macron will get on pretty well.”

Elvire Fabry, a senior research fellow at the Parisian Jacques Delors Institute, highlights that Mr Sunak and Mr Macron face similar criticism in their respective domestic settings. The French President has repeatedly been branded a “president of the rich” while the new Prime Minister’s wealth has led to allegations that he is “out of touch”.

She said: “Sunak will obviously face something that Macron has been facing: that he’s been criticised for not being rooted enough in people’s everyday lives and problems.”

Mr Ricketts suggests that Mr Sunak should be taking notes of Mr Macron’s performance in France. He said: “Whether Sunak is in the mood to look to France for lessons, I doubt. But I think it would be good for him if he did.”

Leaders in France and around Europe also have major concerns over Brexit. While Mr Sunak is seen as more moderate than his predecessors, he has followed in their footsteps on the Northern Ireland protocol.

The Government wants to ditch the policy which keeps Northern Ireland in the single market, but the EU is angry at the UK for threatening to break the initial agreement. Mr Sunak has committed to pursuing changes to the agreement, which will mean more difficult talks with Brussels.

On Friday, Mr Sunak and Mr Macron spoke on the phone, but did not address Brexit, according to reports. A Downing Street spokesperson said the Prime Minister “stressed the importance he places on the UK’s relationship with France – our neighbour and ally”.

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Mr Sunak then “noted the strong historic and cultural links” between the two countries which was strengthened by “President Macron’s moving words following the death of Her Majesty The Queen”.

The source continued: “The leaders agreed that there are a huge range of areas where UK-France cooperation is vital, including on Ukraine, climate, defence and the economy.

“The Prime Minister and President Macron discussed a range of global issues, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“As people across Europe face a difficult winter, with rising energy costs resulting from Putin’s invasion, the leaders resolved to work together to secure a more stable energy future. This includes increasing cooperation on nuclear energy.”

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