French FM hopes for 'new start' with UK after Johnson resignation

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AFP - STEFAN ROUSSEAU
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French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said Friday she hoped for a "new start" to relations with Britain after Boris Johnson's resigned as Conservative Party leader.

During Johnson's tenure, ties between London and Paris had been strained by a range of issues including Brexit, migrant crossings in the English Channel and fishing rights.

"It is up to the British to choose their government and their prime minister, and that happens first within the Conservative Party," said Catherine Colonna, who once served as French ambassador to London, in an interview at G20 talks in Bali.

Colonna said Paris was positive that a change of prime minister would "allow us to hope for a new start in Franco-British relations", calling the status quo "good" but with the "potential for improvement".

On defence and security issues and major crises like Ukraine, "we are very close", she said, adding that Brexit had "prevented our two countries from having a level of cooperation and trust commensurate with their responsibilities in the world".

Johnson was still clinging to power as late as Wednesday night despite a wave of resignations.

But a fresh round of high-profile government departures and warnings of a second no-confidence vote next week by Tory MPs changed his mind, and he stood down on Thursday.

But the scandal-ridden leader said he would stay on until a successor was found.

Colonna was due to meet British foreign minister Liz Truss – one of those touted for the UK's top job – at G20 talks on Friday, but Johnson's resignation prompted Truss to cut short her trip to Indonesia and fly back to London early.

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