interview with Peter Ricketts, British diplomat

Peter Ricketts was David Cameron’s security adviser between 2010 and 2012, and British ambassador to France from 2012 to 2016. Since a member of the House of Lords, this 70-year-old Briton is also co-president of the Franco-British Council, a independent body working to bring France and the United Kingdom closer together.

It is France, before Germany, that King Charles III chose for his first state visit, from March 26 to 29. To what do you attribute this warming of the Franco-British relationship?

First of all, it was the war in Ukraine that helped put the priorities of the two countries into perspective. The belief emerged as early as the summer of 2022 that there is so much more important than squabbles over a fishing fleet off Jersey [en 2011, Boris Johnson avait envoyé des bâtiments de la Royal Navy au large de l’île Anglo-Normande pour prévenir une éventuelle arrivée de marins pêcheurs français]. Just like the need for the two main European military powers to show unity in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Added to this are personality changes that have helped a lot. Between President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the trust was not there. With Rishi Sunak [chef du gouvernement depuis octobre 2022]Mr. Macron has an interlocutor who looks like him: serious and respectful.

Is trust permanently restored?

She is coming back. The conclusion, on February 27, between London and Brussels of the revised agreement on the Northern Irish protocol (the Windsor Framework) is a big step. It contrasts with the unilateral British policies of recent years. The Franco-British summit on March 10 at the Elysee Palace is another important step, as is the King’s state visit. [coordonnée entre Buckingham Palace et Downing Street]. But fixing the bilateral relationship will take time, with actions over words.

The migration issue could derail this relationship again, as Rishi Sunak has just presented a bill aimed at denying the right of asylum to all people crossing the Channel in inflatable boats…

The migration agreement, at the end of 2022, between the French and British interior ministers was rather good [les Britanniques se sont engagés à verser 72 millions d’euros pour financer les efforts français destinés à empêcher les « small boats » de prendre la mer], just like the recognition, by London, at least in speeches, that the only solution to limit Channel crossings is through bilateral cooperation. But, obviously, this is not enough for our Prime Minister. I don’t see how his bill [Illegal Migration Bill] may be compatible with UK obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Refugee Convention. This text will probably meet strong resistance in the House of Lords and should take months before being adopted in Westminster.

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