Raab hails UK and France's 'shoulder to shoulder' relationship ahead of Macron visit

18 June 2020, 08:27 | Updated: 18 June 2020, 08:55

Emmanuel Macron will be welcomed to the capital with a ceremonial Guard of Honour from The Coldstream Guards
Emmanuel Macron will be welcomed to the capital with a ceremonial Guard of Honour from The Coldstream Guards. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Dominic Raab has said that the UK and France stood ‘shoulder to shoulder’ in our darkest hour, ahead of a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Speaking to LBC this morning, the Foreign Secretary said that "despite squabbles over various different things," the fact that Mr Macron was coming to London to bestow the Legion D'Honneur shows the strength of the relationship between the two nations.

He said that the countries "stood shoulder to shoulder in our darkest hour" adding that the nations had cooperated "brilliantly" on Covid-19, and that this visit shows that after Brexit “we can develop even stronger relationships with our European neighbours.”

Boris Johnson is set to discuss an easing of coronavirus quarantine measures when he holds talks with Mr Macron in Downing Street today.

The Prime Minister is expected to discuss the UK's current two-week quarantine for all arrivals with his French counterpart, amid reports that Mr Macron will call on the Government to revisit the decision.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was speaking to LBC this morning
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was speaking to LBC this morning. Picture: LBC

Mr Raab said the Government wants to "open up" the UK when it "safely and responsibly" can, and said ministers are looking "very carefully" at the measure.

He told Sky News: "As we've always said, the quarantine is there to stop the risk of reinfection precisely because we've got Covid down."

The French president is visiting London on Thursday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of his predecessor Charles de Gaulle's "Appel" - his BBC broadcast to occupied France following the Nazi invasion in 1940.

Mr Macron will be received by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at Clarence House, before a ceremonial event and then bilateral talks in Number 10.

Mr Johnson said the four surviving "Compagnons" of the Order of Liberation - Edgard Tupet-Thome, 100, Daniel Bouyjou-Cordier, 99, Hubert Germain, 99, and Pierre Simonet, 98 - will receive honorary MBEs in tribute to their "courage and sacrifice in defending us and the whole world from fascism".

The awards will be presented at a ceremony in France in the coming months.

In Downing Street, Mr Johnson and Mr Macron will view artefacts - including letters - documenting General de Gaulle's time in London and his partnership with Sir Winston Churchill.

The leaders will hold bilateral talks to discuss the coronavirus crisis and other issues. Mr Johnson said on Tuesday that he would raise travel between the UK and France at the meeting.

They will also watch a flypast of the Red Arrows and their French equivalent, La Patrouille de France, to mark the anniversary of the Appel.

Mr Johnson said: "Eighty years ago Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance, arrived in London knowing that the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy that Britain and France shared were under threat.

"He pledged that we would stand together to defend those values and protect our citizens from those bent on destroying us.

"The four men we are honouring today - Pierre, Edgard, Daniel and Hubert - symbolise the enduring depth and strength of the friendship between our two countries.

"They are heroes, and I am immensely proud that as a nation we are paying tribute to their courage and sacrifice in defending us and the whole world from fascism.

"The struggles we face today are different to those we confronted together 80 years ago. But I have no doubt that - working side by side - the UK and France will continue to rise to every new challenge and seize every opportunity that lies ahead."

Mr Macron will be welcomed to the capital with a ceremonial Guard of Honour from The Coldstream Guards and music by The Band of the Coldstream Guards at Clarence House.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "The UK Armed Forces are honoured to welcome President Macron to London on this momentous anniversary for our closest European ally.

"The President's visit is an important opportunity to remember our shared sacrifices and achievements in defeating fascism.

"We can look back on more than a century of co-operation between our Armed Forces and feel proud of what our countries have achieved, side by side at so many great turning points in history.

"The UK and France continue that close partnership today, working together from the Caribbean to Africa and the Middle East, as guarantors of peace and security."

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