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- French president Emmanuel Macron is making his first official visit to the UK.
- Britain has agreed to pay France an extra £44.5 million to maintain its border controls in France.
- The UK is also offering additional assistance to French military operations in Northern Africa, as Prime Minister Theresa May emphasises links between the UK and France.
Britain is going to pay France an extra £44.5 million to maintain border controls between the two countries.
The news, reported by The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, and The Times on Wednesday night, comes as French president Emmanuel Macron makes his first official visit to the United Kingdom as French head of state, and Prime Minister Theresa May attempts to play up the relationship between the two nations ahead of Brexit.
Under the 2003 Le Touqet accords, British border checks take place in the north of France rather than in the UK itself. But according to The Daily Telegraph, Macron had threatened to abandon the agreement – pressuring the UK to commit to paying an extra almost £45 million, which will be spent on scanners, security fencing, heartbeat detectors, and other security technology.
Were the border controls to move to inside Britain, it could increase the chances of migrants making it across the Channel to the UK. In recent years large migrant camps have sprung up in northern France, including the “Jungle.”
Meanwhile, the UK will offer three Chinook helicopters to support France in the Sahel region in North Africa, alongside £50 million in additional humanitarian aid across Mali, Niger, Chad, North Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
The British government is emphasising its good relationship with France as it continues down the path of leaving the European Union. Also on Wednesday night, a majority of MPs (324 to 295) backed the EU withdrawal bill on its third reading in the House of Commons, and it now moves to the House of Lords – where it is expected to face stiff opposition.
In a statement about the military cooperation, Theresa May emphasised the UK’s continued link to Europe post-Brexit. “Today’s Summit will underline that we remain committed to defending our people and upholding our values as liberal democracies in the face of any threat, whether at home or abroad,” she said.
“But our friendship has always gone far beyond defence and security and the scope of today’s discussions represents its broad and unique nature. And while this Summit takes place as the UK prepares to leave the EU, this does not mean that the UK is leaving Europe.
“What is clear from the discussions we will have today is that a strong relationship between our two countries is in the UK, France and Europe’s interests, both now and into the future.”
In a grand diplomatic gesture, France is also planning to loan to the UK the Bayeux Tapestry – a legendary eleventh-century artwork depicting the Norman Conquest of Britain. It will the first time it has been on display in the UK since it was woven nearly 1,000 years ago.