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Macron says France, UK should 're-engage'

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Paris, Sep 21: Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that Britain and France needed to show they were allies and friends in a complicated world, after bilateral talks with British Prime Minister Liz Truss in New York.

The two leaders held their first face-to-face talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, just a day after Macron had been in the UK for Queen Elizabeth's state funeral, and just a few weeks after Truss had questioned whether the French leader was a friend or foe.

Emmanuel Macron with British Prime Minister Liz Truss

Relations between the two neighbors and historical rivals have been difficult since Britain left the European Union for a variety of reasons.

"I now believe in proof, results," Macron said. "There is a will to reengage, to move on and to show that we are allies and friends in a complex world."

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His choice of words even appeared to echo Truss' phrasing about him during her campaign for the Conservative Party leadership and by extension the job as prime minister late last month. Asked, "President Macron: friend or foe?" Truss had replied: "The jury's out. But if I become prime minister, I'll judge him on deeds not words."

More cooperation on energy, Ukraine, and European affairs?

Macron said that he and Truss had discussed a variety of issues, the war in Ukraine, France's proposal to create a European Political Community, which would invite non-EU members to discuss common areas of interest. The French president has made it clear he hopes post-Brexit Britain will participate in such a forum.

A readout on the meeting from Truss' team at 10 Downing Street was less committal, however.

"As our people face a difficult winter with huge uncertainty of energy supply and the cost of living, the Prime Minister and President Macron underscored the importance of working together to end reliance on Russian energy and strengthen energy security," the spokesperson said.

"We must continue to demonstrate to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that his economic blackmail over energy and food supplies will not succeed."

Both France and Britain have important assets that could be of use as Europe tries to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels from Russia. The UK is a major natural gas and oil extractor and exporter. And France, with its large fleet of nuclear power plants, tends to be one of Europe's leading net exporters of electricity. However, that has not been the case in 2022 because of a combination of structural problems in its nuclear fleet and a summer drought forcing some reactors to reduce output because of a lack of water for cooling.

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Post-Brexit issues ranging from fishing to sausages and submarines

Franco-British ties have been under strain amid the UK's exit from the EU for a variety of reasons.

The two governments have clashed on issues including fishing rights, delays in cross-Channel travel and freight, asylum seekers crossing the Channel from mainland Europe, and post-Brexit rules on foodstuff exports from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland that were dubbed the "sausage wars" in some corners of the press.

And in a dispute with less of a discernible direct link to Brexit, France was also angered last September when London entered a trilateral security deal with the US and Australia, a core plank of which involved Australia ditching plans to purchase French submarines in favor of US-manufactured ones.

Source: DW

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