BREXIT could have catastrophic implications for the UK’s relationship with France if the two nations “drift apart”, a former ambassador to France has claimed, as Macron’s military advisers urge the President to get onside with the UK.
Lord Ricketts, a former UK national security adviser and ambassador to France, has warned that Paris and London will have to work harder to maintain their relationship once Britain frees itself from the clutches of Brussels. He said: “Brexit will not weaken the case for close UK-French defence and security cooperation but it will change the context and create the risk of the two countries drifting apart.”
The peer, who has also served as a UK representative to NATO, acknowledged France and the UK have upped their commitment to cooperation on counter-terror and cyber-security initiatives in recent years “in response to recent terrorist attacks”. He added: “It is crucial that Brexit does not adversely affect this”. Lord Ricketts went on to warn the relationship was more vital than ever before in the face of “a more aggressive Russia, the emergence of North Korea as a nuclear power and the uncertainties about the longer-term US commitment to NATO following President Trump’s hesitations over re-affirming article 5”.
NATOs article 5 asserts that attack on one member is an attack on all – and Trump’s hesitancy over the agreement has triggered concerns across the alliance’s 12 member nations. President Macron attempted to sidestep the NATO issue and set himself up as a voice of European reform when he announced his plans to create a European Intervention Initiative (EII) in September last year. Yet to be formalised, the EII is seen by many as an attempt to supersede both the EU and NATO by creating a European Army capable of being rapidly deployed on behalf of continental nations.
But while Lord Ricketts accepted the proposition may have been “uncomfortable” for the UK if the nation had remained in the EU given Britain’s reliance on NATO, Mr Macron is believed to see British involvement as vital for the project. The UK currently spends more on defence than any other European nation, paying out £36billion last year compared to France’s £32billion.
Speaking to the Financial Times, defence analyst Francis Tusa said: “Macron realises that any European initiative for the foreseeable future will not work without UK presence. “He is a pragmatist. His military are telling him: if you want this to work, then you need the Brits involved.”
It comes as the French President looks to call on Theresa May to open the nation’s borders to more Calais migrants in talks this Thursday. Mr Macron is expected to urge the Prime Minister to allow lone children as well as adult migrants with family members in the UK to cross the channel. Estimates on the number of Migrants in Calais range from 400 and 1000, the majority of whom have traveled from Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.Following the crackdown on the migrant camp dubbed ‘The Jungle’ in October 2016, migrants in the region have struggled to find shelter and face routine raids by police if found sleeping rough. Mr Macron is reported to be willing to give approval to a favourable Brexit trade deal if the nation assists in housing the migrants.