PARIS: Boris Johnson will travel to France to meet French President Emmanuel Macron in the next few weeks, French officials said on Friday, while warning the new British premier against “posturing” and “provocations.”
The 41-year-old French leader, who has said he is happy to be considered the “bad guy” in the Brexit negotiations, is set to be a key figure during the tricky and potentially bad-tempered talks in the months ahead.
Macron extended the invitation to Johnson in a call late on Thursday from his official summer vacation residence in the south of France, the fort of Bregancon, where he is expected to stay for the next three weeks, said an aide.
But in a sign of wariness in France about Johnson’s anti-EU rhetoric, France’s Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin urged Britain’s new leader to work on creating a working relationship with his partners on the continent. “From our side, we need to be responsible,” she told France 2 television.
“That means being clear, predictable and it means on the other side that we need to create a working relationship, that there aren’t games, posturing, provocations.” The timing of the meeting between Macron and Johnson was unclear. The British prime minister is due in France to attend the G7 meeting of developed nations in Biarritz on August 24-26. “In any case, we want to work with him .. and we need to,” Montchalin added.
Last year, Macron broke away from his time off to host then British prime minister Theresa May as she sought new concessions in her ultimately doomed bid to bring Britain out of the European Union.
In their conversation, Macron congratulated Johnson on becoming prime minister and emphasised his desire for close Franco-British ties, the presidential official said, reflecting his hope for a strong defence and economic relationship post-Brexit.
But they steered clear of the vexed subject of Britain’s departure from the bloc, the aide added, agreeing that the issue would be discussed in the next few weeks.
Macron, a devoted Europhile who is seeking to deepen links between EU members, views Brexit as an act of self-harm by Britain and he has been highly critical of Johnson personally in the past.
Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2019