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France is a friend, UK PM Liz Truss admits after ‘jury’s out’ campaign claim

Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss has moved to mend fences with France, weeks after saying that the "jury's out" on whether President Emmanuel Macron was a "friend or foe" to Britain.

France is a friend, UK PM Liz Truss admits after 'jury's out' campaign claim
French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Truss met Macron for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the president’s European Political Community meeting in Prague, aimed at bringing the continent together in the face of Russian aggression.

The two leaders afterwards pledged “ambitious” measures to tackle illegal migration against a background of record numbers of people making the dangerous journey across the Channel by boat from northern France.

Truss had given her “jury’s out” answer during her campaign to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative party leader, delighting the Eurosceptic Tory faithful.

But it raised eyebrows as she was foreign minister at the time and supposedly in charge of diplomatic relations with Britain’s neighbour.

She told UK broadcasters before Thursday’s meeting she had worked “very, very closely” with the president and the French government in Paris.

“We’re both very clear the foe is (Russian President) Vladimir Putin, who has through his appalling war in Ukraine threatened freedom and democracy in Europe and pushed up energy prices which we’re now all having to deal with,” she added.

Asked directly if she considered him a friend, Truss replied: “He is a friend.”

In a statement after Thursday’s meeting, the two leaders promised to come up with solutions to deal with migrant crossings and to hold the next UK-France Summit in 2023.

They agreed “to deepen cooperation on illegal migration within the bounds of international law, to tackle criminal groups trafficking people across Europe, ending in dangerous journeys across the Channel.

“Interior Ministers should conclude an ambitious package of measures this autumn,” it added.

Macron often had prickly relations with Truss’s predecessor Boris Johnson, who spearheaded the successful campaign to take Britain out of the European Union.

But Johnson, who joked in Franglais that Macron was “un très bon buddy” (a very good friend), called Anglo-French relations “of huge importance”.

The two nations are close NATO allies and UN Security Council members.

Macron at the time played down Truss’s remarks, saying he would not hesitate for a “second” in affirming Britain as an ally.

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POLITICS

French minister: US green plan should be ‘wake-up call’ for EU industry

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday said Washington's $430 billion plan to spur climate-friendly technologies in the United States must be seen as a wake-up call for Europe.

French minister: US green plan should be 'wake-up call' for EU industry

The EU “must be able to sweep in front of our own door” before worrying about the effects of the US climate plan on European industry, Le Maire told AFP in Washington, where he was part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s US state visit.

Even though the EU has already “changed its approach” on promoting green industry, the US climate plan must be seen as a “wake-up call” in the European Union, he added.

Le Maire’s comments came as EU countries have poured criticism on Washington’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), seeing it as anti-competitive and a threat to European jobs, especially in the energy and auto sectors.

Subsidies for green energy

The act, designed to accelerate the US transition to a low-carbon economy, contains around $370 billion in subsidies for green energy as well as tax cuts for US-made electric cars and batteries.

Macron on Wednesday slammed the plan’s “Made in USA” provisions as “super aggressive” for European businesses.

But at a joint press conference with Macron, Biden said that he and the French leader had agreed to “discuss practical steps to coordinate and align our approaches”, though he said he would not apologize for the US plan.

Biden added the IRA was never intended to disadvantage any US allies.

Threats of retaliatory measures

Last month, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton threatened to appeal to the World Trade Organization and consider “retaliatory measures” if the United States did not reverse its subsidies.

Le Maire also criticized the EU’s own climate spending plans, arguing that they were too cumbersome and loaded with red tape.

“If the ambition is the same” as the Europeans, the United States relies on methods that “are simpler and faster”, he said.

“They put immediate and massive tax credits where we provide state aid (to specific projects) which sometimes take two years to be adopted and are too complex to implement,” said Le Maire.

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