UK politics: Quick View - French president visits UK

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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International Relations, Politics, News Analysis, Forecast
Political Geography
United Kingdom


On January 18th France's president, Emmanuel Macron, made his first official visit to the UK. He met with the UK prime minister, Theresa May, for a security summit and was interviewed by Andrew Marr of the BBC on Brexit.


The meeting between Mr Macron and Mrs May was designed to demonstrate that strong defence ties would not be affected by the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Both sides offered military support for current operations and revealed that the UK-France Combined Joint Expeditionary Force would be ready to deploy up to 10,000 troops by 2020. The Le Touquet Treaty, which has facilitated border controls between France and the UK since 2003, was updated after Mr Macron had threatened to scrap it; under the new Sandhurst Treaty the management of the border will be improved and the UK will provide an additional £44.5m (US$61.9m) to improve security at the shared border in Calais, where a large refugee camp has formed.

In the interview Mr Macron's position on Brexit came as no surprise. He upheld the EU's line on cherry-picking from the four EU freedoms, stating that these "preconditions" of single-market membership must be accepted to secure full access to it. This is the ultimate red line for the EU27, and particularly for founding members like France, which are strongly committed to its survival. Mr Macron admitted that France might have also voted to leave the EU had it held its own referendum, but he won the presidential election on a staunchly pro-European platform and is currently taking the lead in pushing for deeper EU integration.

The UK government has made clear that the referendum result means that it cannot adhere to single-market rules. Mr Macron said that the alternative was something closer to a bilateral trade agreement, which he conceded would be bespoke, almost by definition. However, the UK's financial services sector would not have "differentiated access" under this arrangement. France recently won the bid to host the European Banking Authority (EBA) and will seek to "attract the maximum activity" from the UK's financial services sector post-Brexit.

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