France politics: Quick View - Macron visits the UK
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- Economist Intelligence Unit
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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 the BBC on Brexit.
The meeting between Mr Macron and Mrs May was designed to demonstrate that bilateral defence ties would not be affected by the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Both sides offered military support for current operations, and stated that the UK-France Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) 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 (Mr Macron had previously threatened to scrap it). Under the new Sandhurst Treaty the UK will provide an additional £44.5m (US$61.9m) for fencing the shared border in Calais (where a large refugee camp has formed). The management of the border will be improved, with a pledged reduction in the time taken to process migrants wanting to enter the UK from six months to one.
In his BBC interview Mr Macron upheld the EU's line on cherry-picking from the four EU freedoms, saying that these "preconditions" of single market membership must be accepted in order for a country to secure full single market access. This is the ultimate red line for the EU27, and particularly for founding members such as France, which are strongly committed to the single market's survival. France's line towards the UK has proved to be one of the toughest in the EU regarding Brexit negotiations. Mr Macron hopes to deter any other countries from even considering leaving the bloc.
The UK government has made clear that the referendum result means 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. 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, and would seek to "attract the maximum activity" from the UK's financial services sector post-Brexit.
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