, December 07, 2021

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How come the UK and France have become ‘best enemies’ more than ever?

  •   3 min reads
How come the UK and France have become ‘best enemies’ more than ever?

France and the United Kingdom have always been allies and historical partners, but these last few weeks, both countries seem to misunderstand each other more than the usual.

« Our patience is reaching its limits »

Stated Gabriel Attal, the French government spokesman, on the 27th of October to journalists in Paris.

An accumulation of disagreements


According to John Henley, a journalist from the Guardian, relationships started crystallizing with Covid-19. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, criticized the ‘AstraZeneca’ vaccine, claiming that it was :

« Almost inefficient for older people above 65 years old »

While it was a huge pride for the United Kingdom.


Brexit is also perceived as a big argument between them, as the head of the Europe programme at the Institute Montaigne, Georgina Wright explains :

« The view in London is that France is still trying to punish the UK for Brexit, and the bilateral relationship is stuck because of French threats ».

Peter Ricketts, former Great Britain’s ambassador to France (2012-2016) exposed his own perspective on it :

« My sense is the French have just totally lost confidence in the UK as an ally, and in the British government as something to depend on ».

In response to this, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in franglais during a public appearance :

"Prenez un grip and donnez-moi un break"

Emmanuel Macron quickly reacted to a call to re-establish cooperation.

The Aukus Defence Pact

Another episode provoked reactions by the end of this summer with the Aukus Defence Pact. It was supposed to France, but last-minute Australia, America and Great Britain announced their pact altogether. This new Australian security submarine’s contract was a promise to France, and it would have earned approximatively 90 billion of Australian dollars (AFP source). The Hexagon felt really humiliated, betrayed and irritate, and it added to the lost of trust towards the U.K.


Recently, Menna Rawlings CMG the current UK ambassador to France retweeted the speech of Gérald Darmanin, the French Home Office Minister during an opened session in ‘l’Assemblée Nationale’. The Minister tries to work on the partnership between the two countries regarding immigrants policy. At first he congratulates their alliance :

« We need to entertain equitable, balanced and of good understanding relationships with our English friends, because they are our friends »

Then he continued :

« We have made a deal which allowed us to gain around 63 millions more euros to protect the border on behalf of the English people on the French side, and avoid boats crossing with passengers (…) »
« We reminded to our British friends, who actually asked us to be more efficient, that they should keep their promises »
« Thirdly, we must negotiate an European treaty because M. Barnier’s agreement did not planned it ».
'Assemblée Nationale' image credits : Unsplash

M. Darmanin wanted to make sure the UK and France have a solid cooperation in order to fight against the Cross-Channel illegal immigration. Since the beginning of the year, 6600 immigrants were intercepted by British borders police and French police prevented 8000 people to go through the English Channel.

The huge matter around fishery, retaliatory measures threats

A few weeks ago Clément Beaune, Foreign Affairs Secretary, threatened to cut the power supply fed from Normandy towards England and the Jersey island.

What is the actual matter?

The UK is asking for French boats to prove that they have fished in British waters historically, but the majority of these, are not technically equipped to do so. And some of them have recently bought new boats which did not fish in those areas. The British government insists and claims it has granted 98% of licence applications from EU vessels since Brexit. France denies, for them the UK introduces evidence requirements not included in the Brexit trade deal.

Annick Girardin, the Maritime French Minister, denounces and tweeted :

« It has been nine months since French fishermen cannot work. It is a non-respect of the British signature. Enough is enough ».

She announced that the French government will take some retaliatory measures by the 2nd of November, writing the hashtag :« IwantMyLicensesBack ».

Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron, who will both attend the G-20 summit, should meet apart on Sunday the 31st of October, two days before the retaliatory measures' deadline.

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