Emmanuel Macron hits back after Liz Truss ‘jury’s out’ jibe

·4-min read
Emmanuel Macron hits back after Liz Truss ‘jury’s out’ jibe

Emmanuel Macron has said the UK “is a friendly nation...sometimes in spite of its leaders” after Liz Truss said the “jury’s out” on the French president.

The Foreign Secretary has been warned to keep Britain’s relationship with France “as close as possible” as she faces criticism for the comment, made at a hustings event in Norwich.

The Tory leadership hopeful said on Thursday that she was undecided as to whether her counterpart in Paris was “friend or foe”.

In response on Friday, after a long pause and some laughs from reporters, Mr Macron told local media: “ The United Kingdom is a friendly nation, regardless of its leaders, sometimes in spite of its leaders.”

Mr Macron said: “Great Britain is a friend of France, and you know we live in a complicated world.

“We have more and more liberal governments, autocratic democracies and other powers that create imbalance, and if we’re not able to say whether the French and British people are friends or foes - and the word foes is not a neutral one - then we’re heading towards serious problems.

“So yes, I say it with certainty, the British people, the British nation is our friend. The United Kingdom, strong and allied, regardless of its leaders, and sometimes in spite of and beyond its leaders, or regardless of the small mistakes they can make in their speeches.”

Earlier on Friday the German ambassador to the UK warned Ms Truss of needing to keep the French on side.

Miguel Berger, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme said: “I would say that the relationship with France is of crucial importance for the United Kingdom, so my recommendation would be really to look for a relationship that is as close as possible.

“I think there needs to be an effort to reach a good understanding and cooperation with our French neighbours.”

Meanwhile Former Conservative minister Gavin Barwell also questioned the remark, tweeting: “You would have thought the Foreign Secretary was aware we are in a military alliance with France”.

A number of issues have affected the UK and France in recent months, including boat crossings in the Channel and travel chaos around Dover, which Ms Truss blamed on a lack of staffing by the French authorities.

Both the Foreign Secretary and her rival candidate Rishi Sunak were asked a series of quickfire questions at the Norwich hustings.

TalkTV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, the event host, asked Ms Truss: “President Macron, friend or foe?”

“The jury’s out,” she responded to loud applause.

“But if I become prime minister, I would judge him on deeds, not words.”

The former chancellor had quickly answered “friend” when asked the same question.

Labour warned that the comment, which could be seen to risk straining tensions with France, showed a “terrible and worrying lack of judgment”.

French President Emmanuel Macron (AFP via Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron (AFP via Getty Images)

It comes after Ms Truss distanced the UK from the prospect of a project of being part of a wider European political community following a meeting between Boris Johnson and the French president in June.

The Elysee Palace insisted that the Prime Minister had expressed interest in the idea, which would see non-EU states such as the UK involved.

Ms Truss denied the UK had ever been on board with such a proposal, saying afterwards: “That is not true.

“I don’t know the exact words that President Macron has used, but we have not agreed to that.”

Asked whether she bought into “his political and economic community”, she replied: “No.”

In July, she said delays to the journeys of holidaymakers near Dover were the fault of French authorities and had been “entirely avoidable”.

However a French politician blamed Brexit for the chaos.

Pierre-Henri Dumont, Republican MP for Calais, said the problems at the Kent port would reoccur, telling BBC News: “This is an aftermath of Brexit. We have to run more checks than before.”