Patrick Daly, PA political correspondent in Paris
Fri, 10 March 2023 at 3:43 pm GMT
Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron have given the clearest demonstration yet of what has become dubbed “Le Bromance” as the Prime Minister heralded his counterpart as a “friend of Britain”.
During a press conference in Paris, the pair embraced after Mr Sunak told the French president he felt “very fortunate to be serving alongside you”.
The leaders were speaking at the conclusion of the first UK-France summit in five years, with the gathering seen as a turning point in cross-Channel relations after Brexit.
Mr Sunak described his counterpart as a “friend of Britain” as he thanked him for his “graciousness” towards the country after the Queen’s death last year.
“I’ve learned very quickly in this job that there are some things you can control and some things you can’t. And one thing you can’t control is who you get as an international counterpart,” Mr Sunak said.
“I feel very fortunate to be serving alongside you and incredibly excited about the future we can build together. Merci, mon ami.”
The pair then shook hands and embraced.
During Liz Truss’s brief time as prime minister, she said the “jury is out” on whether Mr Macron was a “friend or foe”.
But her successor has struck a very different tone since taking office in October.
Mr Sunak, speaking later at the Elysee Palace briefing, said he wanted to usher in a “new chapter” in Anglo-French relations.
The Vote Leave campaigner made the comments after the French leader spoke about the need to “fix” issues that had been created by Britain’s exit from the European Union.
The Conservative Party leader said: “I always say, we left the EU but we didn’t leave Europe. Emmanuel said previously ‘Brexit didn’t change geography’.
“We want to have a close, co-operative, collaborative relationship with our European partners and allies.
“And of course, that starts with our nearest neighbour, France, and today is the first step on that journey.
“We’re writing a new chapter in this relationship, and I’m really looking forward to everything that we can build on in the coming months and years ahead.”
The press briefing followed hour-long bilateral talks between the pair.
They took the decision to hold their discussions largely in private in what was seen as another sign of their close working relationship.
No 10 confirmed they were joined only at the end of the meeting by their respective chiefs of staff “for a brief period”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It was a warm and productive meeting. They discussed the upcoming Six Nations match, having exchanged signed shirts.”
The spokesman said the leaders, who first met at the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt in November shortly after Mr Sunak entered Downing Street, spoke in English during the bilateral talks.
Commentators have dubbed Mr Sunak and Mr Macron’s cordial relationship as “Le Bromance”.
The two politicians are a similar age and have a background in banking.
The friendship comes after relations turned cold between London and Paris during Boris Johnson and Liz Truss’s premierships, with rows over Brexit, fishing rights and the Aukus submarine deal between the UK, US and Australia.
The leaders exchanged rugby shirts ahead of England’s clash with France at Twickenham on Saturday, part of the annual Six Nations tournament.
They were signed by the respective playing squads of the teams, No 10 confirmed.
Mr Macron and Mr Sunak both made jokes about France v England football and rugby clashes during the press conference, with the Prime Minister mentioning Les Bleus dumping Gareth Southgate’s footballers out of the World Cup in Qatar.
During the briefing, they announced a new partnership on tackling small boats of migrants crossing the English Channel.
The Prime Minister committed to sending Paris £478 million to fund a new detention centre in France and hundreds of extra French law enforcement officers.