Mr Macron’s quarantine-exempt visit was to mark the 80th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle’s speech, broadcast by the BBC from London in 1940, which rallied the French people to resist the Nazi occupation of France. Mr Macron also met with Prince Charles and bestowed on London the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour, in tribute to British-French solidarity during World War 2. The French President expressed “infinite gratitude” for the vital role London played in giving France a voice in that dark time, and in return the UK put on a ceremonial flypast by the Red Arrows.
Mr Macron and Mr Johnson also took the opportunity to discuss Brexit again, which had stagnated in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and a stalemate in negotiations.
Both agreed to step up efforts to secure a UK-EU trade deal, amid signs the UK could be open to a compromise in which it would face tariffs if it undercut European regulations.
However, relations between the two country’s leaders may be slightly strained, due to comments Mr Macron has made about Mr Johnson in the past.
In an interview with Monocle in 2017, he accused Mr Johnson of a “crime” in that he fought for Brexit and then did not run to lead the Conservative Party in the aftermath.
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French President Emmanuel Macron met with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday
President Macron presents London with honour alongside Prince Charles and his wife Camilla
At the time of speaking, Mr Johnson was Foreign Secretary, a post he held from July 2016, when Theresa May appointed him, to July 2018, when he resigned over the Chequers deal.
Mr Macron said: “Boris Johnson enjoys giving flamboyant speeches but has no strategic vision; the turmoil he created the day after Brexit proves it.
“Nigel Farage and Mr Johnson are responsible for this crime: they sailed the ship into battle and jumped overboard at the moment of crisis.
“Theresa May has handled it but what has been happening since then?
Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron on Horse Guard’s Parade, London, yesterday
“On the geopolitical level as well as on the financial, realignment and submission to the US.
“What is going to happen is not ‘taking back control’: It’s servitude.”
This is an opinion echoed by others in the EU, including the former European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt.
Mr Verhofstadt likened Mr Farage and Mr Johnson to “rats fleeing a sinking ship”.
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Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron watch the Red Arrows flypast
The country leaders look at artefacts related to Charles de Gaulle
What’s more, the idea that the UK will be forced to make large concessions to the US in order to secure a trade deal has remained a pervasive one.
During the General Election campaign last year, then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisted that the NHS was “up for sale” in a potential US-UK trade deal being discussed by the Tories.
However, Mr Johnson dismissed these claims as “nonsense”, saying that the NHS was categorically not part of any trade talks.
In the Monocle interview, Mr Macron hammered home his claim that the UK will suffer from Brexit, because the EU has to remain rigid in its dealings with external countries.
He said: “Britain must understand that our interest in the medium to long term is to have clear rules.
“So if Britain wants to trade with Europe it has to choose a model, such as the Swiss, Norwegian or Canadian.
“You have to accept that there are losses. But it’s the British who will lose the most.
Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron socially distance standing outside Number 10 Downing Street
“You cannot enjoy rights in Europe if you are not a member ‒ otherwise it will fall apart.
“Europe is what has enabled us since 1945, in an unprecedented way, to preserve peace, security, freedom and prosperity in our continent.”
“The British are making a serious mistake over the long term.”