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Macron to meet UK opposition chief Starmer

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Macron to meet UK opposition chief Starmer
French president Emmanuel Macron (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron will host UK Labour party chief Keir Starmer in Paris next week, his office said on Wednesday, in a sign of shifting winds ahead of a likely election next year.

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Starmer's centre-left party looks like the favourite to become the biggest in the UK parliament at the vote as the Conservative government under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak flounders.

Macron "will meet Mr Keir Starmer on Tuesday September 19 (...) as part of his dialogue with European political actors," his Elysee Palace office said, confirming reports in British media.

The Labour leader's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Starmer last week reshuffled his top team in what many observers saw as preparation for an election campaign, and has recently made promises not to raise taxes if he secures power.

Rishi Sunak, who only became Conservative prime minister last October, must call an election by the end of January 2025.

The Tory leader is expected to wait for as long as possible in the hope that the country's grim economic picture will improve, after months of record inflation and the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.

For now, Labour consistently beats the Conservatives by some distance in polls of voting intentions.

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Macron's office said on Wednesday that he had spoken with Sunak "on the fringes of the G20 summit" in India at the weekend.

The French head of state will also welcome Britain's King Charles III later this month on a state visit -- delayed earlier this year as France was wracked by fierce protests against Macron's pension reforms.

Britain is a key diplomatic partner for France, with the two nuclear-armed NATO members both holding permanent seats on the UN Security Council and engaging in close military cooperation.

But the two often scuffle over bilateral issues, including migrants crossing into the UK on small boats -- arrivals Sunak has vowed to cut off -- and fishing rights.

The relationship grew more tense during Britain's years-long departure from the European Union, which coincided with Macron's vocally pro-EU first term.

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