Rishi Sunak to travel to France for summit with Emmanuel Macron

Rishi Sunak with Emmanuel Macron  (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak with Emmanuel Macron (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak is to travel to France in March for an Anglo-French summit aimed at resetting relations with President Emmanuel Macron following rows over migration and Brexit.

Plans for the summit on 10 March were announced by Downing Street following Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

It will be the first summit since 2018 and comes amid reports in the French media that King Charles is lining up a state visit to France later in March - his first since he acceded the throne in September.

The two summits represent a push by both sides to rebuild ties which have been damaged by the UK’s decision to leave the EU and tensions during Boris Johnson’s time in office and Liz Truss’s brief premiership.

No 10 said the meetings between Mr Sunak and Mr Macron would look to deepen security relations between the two countries as well as tackling issues including migration, the economy and the environment.

French government sources were quoted as saying that the talks would serve as an “ice breaker” ahead of the state visit by King Charles set to take place a few weeks later.

"French President Emmanuel Macron will host the Prime Minister for a UK-France summit on March 10," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

"The idea of this summit was discussed by the two leaders during their first phone call in October 2022.

"It will be the first meeting of this kind since 2018 and an opportunity to deepen co-operation between the UK and France in a huge range of areas including security, climate and energy, the economy, migration and shared foreign policy goals."

The spokesman said "you can certainly expect" the issue of small boats to come up "given it is high on the priority list" for the Prime Minister.

Since taking office in October, Mr Sunak has been keen to rebuild bridges with Paris over the issue of migrant boats crossing the channel. Closer co-operation with France is part of the PM’s broader plan to cut illegal immigration and small boat crossings - one of the five key pledges set out by Mr Sunak in his new year plan last week.

There is also fresh momentum building behind an agreement on the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit treaty which keeps the region in the EU single market but sets up trade checks on some goods moving between Britain and NI.

London and Brussels agreed the outline of a deal on data sharing on Monday which could unlock a wider agreement to reduce checks with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton Harris in Belfgast today for talks with NI political leaders.

Amid earlier tensions over Brexit, Presdient Macron was reported to have called Johnson a “clown”. Then, during the Tory leadership race to replace Mr Johnson following his resignation, Ms Truss angered Paris by saying she did not know whether the French leader was a friend or foe.

Buckingham Palace is yet to confirm King Charles’s first state visit will be to Paris.