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Starmer in Paris: Do We Believe Love in Paris in Post-Brexit Ties?

The leader of the UK’s Labour Party Keir Starmer visited Paris on the 19th of September for bilateral talks with the French President. Starmer’s visit which was only a day before King Charles’ III, was the final destination of his diplomatic efforts following his meetings in Montreal for the event of Global Progress Action Summit with center-left leaders like Canada’s Prime Minister (PM) Justin Trudeau, former PM of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, former PM of Finland Sanna Marin, PM of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre, Tony Blair and many others as well as his meeting with EU diplomats in Hague on Europol and immigration policy.

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The UK’s opposition leader and the French President on the 19th of September 2023
The UK’s opposition leader and the French President on 19th September 2023
Diversified subjects

The UK’s opposition leader and the French President in their meeting at the Elysee Palace
Photo Credit: Laurent Blevennec/Présidence de la République 

Though the extent of the meeting is not clarified thoroughly, it is known that the content of the meeting covered many topics from the war in Ukraine to the Brexit deal. Starmer hinted at a new Brexit deal if he becomes a Prime Minister concerning the immigration policies and cooperation among two states.  Starmer’s diplomatic engagement of a 45-minute-long meeting with Emmanuel Macron ended by exchanging gifts with each other. The visit was described as “constructive” and “positive” by Starmer himself. In his remarks to the Sky News after the visit, Starmer declares that the meeting with exchange of ideas on wide range topics concerning the two countries and their mutual interest to work on the bilateral relations aimed to strengthen the partnership. The Elysee Palace has not officially published a statement regarding the closed-door meeting but the general view can help interpret the situation as an opportunity to create a space for work and collaboration. 

A new election for the UK

Keir Starmer as the opposition leader of the Labour Party which has increased their voter base and performed better in elections, is considered the “winner” of the next general elections in 2024 by the early polls due to the growing support of the Party in post-Brexit UK with political instability during Boris Johnson’s troublesome resignation after his never-ending “Partygate” scandals and the 44 day-long office time of Liz Truss last year.

Ties between France and UK: a love language ?
(From left to right) The former PM Boris Johnson, the incumbent PM Rishi Sunak, the former PM Liz Truss Photo credit: Getty

The visit was significant in multilayered aspects and also a protocol challenger considering Starmer’s position as the opposition leader challenging the Tory Party which has survived much turbulence in its political environment as well as on its leader base. However, sources confirm that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was notified about this visit and attempts by Starmer to “seduce” his “future counterparts” with a “diplomatic” and “multilateral” language. It also raises questions on the nature of the current bilateral ties between the UK and France which significantly lacked a “love language”.

These attempts were considered to grow relations with world leaders and influential actors in the multilateral system. The bilateral ties between the UK and France have been a rollercoaster in recent years. The ties were challenged and strung by several occasions such as the AUKUS pact which bypassed France by scrapping the contract being made on nuclear-powered submarines which then-Foreign Minister of France Jean Yves Le Drian defined as “a knife in the back” and the then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the headlines by saying “donnez-moi un break”. In addition, despite the short-lived office term of her mandate, Liz Trust went further by drawing a gray and a blurry line between France and the UK implying whether France was a friend or a foe which also made the headlines. Rishi Sunak’s meeting with the French President at COP27 in Egypt in 2022, however, signaled a more positive future for the bilateral ties by the analysts. 

Migrants trying to cross the channel by inflatable boats
Photo credit: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

The bilateral ties are indeed quite crucial since the cooperation between France and the UK on migration and asylum seekers is considered at the heart of the drama being witnessed across the channel where thousands of people lose their lives to cross it illegally with hopes of reaching the UK mainland and seek asylum. The cooperation could also hinder the illegal human trafficking activities which threaten the lives of asylum seekers. Another opportunity for the two nuclear powers with influential soft powers as well as their hard power can set the tone of the European Continent on many issues from Ukraine, the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the relations with the US, the NATO to the Brexit deal, fishing, the green transition and the efforts to combat criminal activities in the region despite the UK’s choice to distant itself from European affairs and politics. As a natural neighbor of the Continent, the UK cannot turn its head away from issues regarding the whole region. 

The march where the demonstrators calls on the UK to return the EU on October 22, 2023
Photo Credit: Beresford Hodge/PA

The Brexit’s aftermaths on both the UK, mainly, and the EU side on several aspects such as politics, economics, logistics, trade, multilateralism and climate change have been scrutinized a great deal recently. The latest march for the reunification of the UK with the European Union is one of the latest outcries of the current system which is seen as destructive by many political scientists and experts on international relations.

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