'Le bromance'?: Macron, Sunak revive France-UK relations in Paris

They have similar backgrounds, similar ages, even similar sartorial style: the UK and French leaders did not lack for common ground as they escaped domestic crises for a day of diplomatic pomp.

"It was not a summit like others. It was a summit of new ambitions," declared French President Emmanuel Macron after the first UK-French summit in five years.

"Merci, mon ami!" gushed British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, adding: "I feel very fortunate to be serving alongside you."

Sunak's Eurostar train made it through to Paris despite transport strikes challenging Macron's pension reforms that are currently complicating life in France.

The strikes in France are a reflection of similar social upheavals in the UK related to the cost-of-living crisis.

They held over an hour of face-to-face talks -- without translators or even aides -- and exchanged rugby shirts ahead of "Le crunch" England-France rugby clash this weekend.

French daily Liberation celebrated their meeting by putting on its front cover a porcelain souvenir mug -- in the style of the British royal wedding -- with Macron and Sunak inside a heart and the headline: "Happy to see you again".

"Close neighbours. Great friends. Historic allies. It's great to be in Paris," the premier tweeted shortly after arriving.

- New deals -

The leaders adopted a new pact aimed at stemming a tide of migrants embarking on small boats for the dangerous passage from France to England.

After Brexit -- and Sunak's voluble predecessor Boris Johnson -- strained relations to breaking point, the prime minister sorely needs Macron's cooperation to tackle the migrants issue.

The years-long Brexit wars have been partly resolved by a recent breakthrough with the European Union over Northern Ireland, and Britain is on a highly visible fence-mending mission with France.

Asked by a British reporter if Brexit could be overcome, Macron replied with a wink, "I'm sure we will do it."

After a day trip to Kyiv, this was only Sunak's second trip to a foreign capital for bilateral talks since he replaced Johnson's short-lived successor Liz Truss in October.

Sunak brought over all of his leading cabinet ministers for the summit, which paves the way for the first state visit overseas of King Charles III's reign, to France at the end of this month.

Above all, Russia's war in Ukraine has reminded Western Europe's only two nuclear powers that they need each other.

- Friends not foes -

Personal dynamics help.

"Friends," Sunak wrote over a tweeted picture of him meeting Macron at the UN's COP27 climate gathering in Egypt in November.

That was an unsubtle dig at Truss, who had said she was undecided on whether the French leader was a "friend or foe" to Britain.

In contrast, Macron, 45, and Sunak, 42, look tailor-made for each other -- so much so that their burgeoning partnership has been dubbed "le bromance".

Their parents worked in medicine. They both became rich in investment banking, and both still sport a boardroom style of sharply cut navy-blue suits.

They both run slick social media operations, and both harbour ambitions to bring Silicon Valley entrepreneurship to their countries.

Outside of their offices, they are known to share a penchant for hooded sweatshirts.

But while Macron is a champion of European integration, Sunak is a proud Brexiteer who backed Britain's EU exit from the start.

Macron is unabashed in luring US finance to Paris, to profit from the City of London's Brexit troubles.

But Sunak retains confidence in the City's long-term prospects -- and in the UK's ability to forge new trade and strategic alliances.

He heads next week to the United States to sign off on a partnership under which Australia will use UK-US submarine technology -- after Canberra scrapped a French contract, to outrage in Paris.

Alice Billon-Galland, research fellow at Chatham House in London, said the personal dynamic was "really crucial" even if issues bedevilling the relationship went well beyond that.

"But the clash of personalities symbolised how bad the relationship had become. We were waiting for a change of personnel to enable that reset after Boris and Liz Truss."