French President Emmanuel Macron is a friend of Britain, Prime Minister Liz Truss said on Thursday, having declared earlier this year while campaigning to become leader that the jury was out on whether he was a friend or foe.
Truss was speaking in Prague at the inaugural summit of the European Political Community (EPC), a format that is Macron’s brainchild and brings together the 27 European Union members with 17 other European countries.
“He is a friend,” Truss told reporters when asked whether she had made up her mind about Macron.
The two leaders met for scheduled talks shortly after her comment, and agreed to take forward a “renewed bilateral agenda,” according to a joint statement.
“The President and the Prime Minister reaffirmed the strong and historic ties between their two countries,” the statement said, announcing an agreement to hold a UK-France summit in 2023 in France.
Historically complicated relations between Britain and France have become more tense ever since Britain left the European Union in early 2020, inflamed by disputes over control of border posts and the flow of migrants crossing the sea from Calais to southern England.
“I work very, very closely with President Macron and the French government and what we’re talking about is how the UK and France can work more closely together to build more nuclear power stations, and to make sure that both countries have energy security in the future,” Truss said. “We’re both very clear: The foe is Vladimir Putin.”
Her initial remarks in August, made during the campaign to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, played to Anglo-French rivalry and drew cheers from an audience of members of the governing, eurosceptic Conservative Party.
But they drew a cool response from Macron, who said Britain was “a friendly nation, regardless of its leaders, sometimes in spite of its leaders.”
The two subsequently met in New York, after Truss became prime minister, where Macron said there had been a desire “to re-engage, to move on and to show that we are allies and friends in a complex world.”
The joint statement issued after Thursday’s meeting included a recommitment of support for a nuclear power station in England built by French firm EDF, affirmation of their commitment to supporting Ukraine and a promise to work more closely on tackling cross-channel migration.