French President Emmanuel Macron has been accused of stonewalling plans for an Anglo-French summit as reports of a “toxic” diplomatic relationship between London and Paris grow
In an effort to reset the so-called “entente cordiale,” for months diplomats have been trying to arrange a high-level meeting between Boris Johnson and the French president, but ministers in Paris are refusing to agree a date for the summit saying the relationship was “appalling”.
In the UK, one senior diplomatic source said:
“The government has reached out to try to arrange a summit but the French aren’t interested, they’ve simply said there’s no point. Every day elements of the French system are basically crossing the street to pick a fight.”
Figures on both sides of the Channel point to bad blood and recriminations across a range of policy areas including Brexit fishing rights, cross-Channel migration, the supply and safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine and Covid quarantine restrictions.
Things came to a head in May when a row over fishing rights off the coast of Jersey rapidly deteriorated into an international incident after a French minister suggested that France could cut off supplies of electricity to the island. That in turn led to Mr Johnson ordering a Royal Navy patrol vessel into the area, which was swiftly followed by its French counterpart.
In an attempt to build bridges, the UK side is understood to have been pushing hard to arrange a date for a UK-French summit where both leaders and senior ministers could build on areas of co-operation. Traditionally, summits like this have taken place every couple of years, but the last was in January 2018 – and despite intense diplomatic efforts, neither side can agree on a date or agenda.