May aims for Brexit goodwill in Macron talks

French President Emmanuel Macron with British PM Theresa May in Paris last December. At yesterday's talks in Sandhurst, Mrs May wanted to show that Britain still has plenty to offer France and the European Union.
French President Emmanuel Macron with British PM Theresa May in Paris last December. At yesterday's talks in Sandhurst, Mrs May wanted to show that Britain still has plenty to offer France and the European Union.PHOTO: REUTERS

British PM to pledge additional $81.5m to boost border security with France

LONDON/PARIS • British Prime Minister Theresa May was yesterday set to offer French President Emmanuel Macron an additional £44.5 million (S$81.5 million) to bolster security along the French border, part of measures to deepen cooperation that she hoped would foster goodwill in Brexit talks.

The funding will go towards fencing, closed-circuit television systems and detection technology in the northern French port city of Calais as well as at other points along the Channel from which migrants regularly attempt to reach British shores by ferry or train. The money would be on top of more than £100 million already paid by Britain.

At talks with Mr Macron at Sandhurst, Britain's army officer training academy, Mrs May wanted to show that Britain still has plenty to offer France and other members of the European Union as she negotiates her country's departure.

But after a choreographed drumbeat of new agreements to be signed at what aides said was the 35th Anglo-French summit, the overtures, including the loan of the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry, fell flat in Britain's eurosceptic media.

"What a stitch up! Did borrowing the Bayeux Tapestry cost Britain £45 million more to stop migrants at Calais," the Daily Mail asked, while The Sun mocked up the depiction of how William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 as a tale of the EU trying to stop Britain leaving the bloc.

Mrs May's spokesman said militant attacks in Britain and France underlined the need for cooperation, including yesterday's first meeting of the five heads of British and French intelligence agencies. The two sides were expected to commit to joint military operations, including a combined expeditionary force.

Britain was expected to pledge to send three Chinook helicopters to Mali to provide logistical support for a French counter-terrorism operation and to participate in a new European defence initiative, the European Intervention Initiative.

France, in turn, was to commit to contribute troops to British-led Nato forces in Estonia next year.

At the summit, the pair were also expected to discuss their joint crackdown on online extremism "to ensure that the Internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists and criminals", according to a British government spokesman.

The issue of Brexit was not scheduled for formal discussion but was likely to be touched upon in talks on other topics, the British official said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2018, with the headline 'May aims for Brexit goodwill in Macron talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe