When Goscinny and Uderzo published Asterix in Brittany, In 1965, and Obélix kept repeating throughout history that “these British are crazy”, General de Gaulle had already made every effort to veto the entry of the United Kingdom into the then European Economic Community. The head-on clash between two unrepeatable political personalities, such as Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron, could simply be one more chapter in the eternal tension between the two nations, were it not for the emotional catalytic effect that Brexit has had on that relationship.
“The British are sovereign in their decisions, and may well think that [esas decisiones] They are not our business, but the truth is that they are. Because this was a divorce, they divorced us ”, explained in March to the AFP agency in her Paris apartment Sylvie Bermann, the one who was French ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2014 to 2017. Her book Goodbye Britannia, published months earlier, it was a declaration of love betrayed to the British and a visceral attack on Johnson, whom he defined as “a stubborn liar.”
Every time Macron has punched the table, and threatened to twist London’s arm, he has resorted to the same argument: the lack of seriousness of his interlocutor in Downing Street. “If one does not respect what was negotiated, nothing is worthy of respect. I believe in the soundness of the treaties, and in the need to take matters seriously, ”the French president said in June, hours before heading to Cornwall, on the British coast, for the G-7 meeting.
Macron, as he has not stopped doing all this time, was once again exercising poly little of the EU, reproached Johnson for his unilateral breach of the Northern Ireland protocol (the cornerstone of the Brexit agreement). And burst, incidentally, the first attempt at the new Great Britain Global dreamed by Eurosceptics of being a relevant international actor. In the new confrontation this week, after the death on Wednesday of 27 people trying to cross the English Channel and reach British shores, Macron has once again questioned the prime minister’s disposition.
According to Paris, the attempt to seek avenues of cooperation in the face of the migration crisis had been exploited by the indiscretion of Johnson, who had published on Twitter the letter he had just sent to the French president. “Those methods surprise me, they are not very serious. It is not normal for two leaders to communicate with each other through tweets and make their correspondence public, ”Macron said this Friday.
The troubles between the two politicians have become a constant in international meetings. At the inauguration of the last Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, a cloud of journalists caught the French president in the corridors of the Convention Center. They did not want to ask him about the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but about the ultimatum, which was going to expire in a few hours, on account of the fishing conflict between London and Paris. A Scottish ship was still held in French port, and the Macron government threatened to block access to the coast of the British fleet and reimpose tight customs controls on the Calais border. London, in return, wielded the warning to invoke the safeguard and arbitration mechanisms of the trade agreement signed with Brussels. An attack from Paris would be considered an attack by the EU.
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There are domestic and international political reasons for the continuing hyperbole that is the relationship between London and Paris. A few months before a presidential election in which Macron feels the breath of the populist right on his neck, the national reaffirmation at the cost of the pérfida Albión usually works. And in the midst of a gasoline shortage and queues at service stations, a lack of labor and immigration lack of control, Johnson has found in France the perfect scapegoat to purge his shortages. But in addition, Macron openly detests the British negotiating maneuvers, which represent the opposite of the Cartesian rationalism and Napoleonic positivism on which the negotiating strategy and the legal solidity of the EU are based. Johnson, on the other hand, is convinced that France remains determined to prove that Brexit was a mistake for which the United Kingdom must suffer.
November 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the last major bilateral agreement between London and Paris: David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy signed the Lancaster House agreements, which expanded and strengthened military and defense cooperation between the two nations. This terrain has been the only one in which, historically, there have never been mutual doubts (with the exception of the confrontation between Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac on account of the Iraq war). Here too everything has been put up for auction, after Paris saw as incomprehensible disloyalty the AUKUS agreement forged last September between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, which took France by surprise from the contract of the century with the country Austral, for the construction and sale of new submarines.