Emmanuel Macron received on Tuesday the leader of the British opposition Keir Starmer, who is trying to build links on the international scene in view of the next legislative elections in which his Labor Party is favored. This bilateral interview of around 45 minutes away from the cameras with the French president, who has nevertheless established a good relationship with conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, is described by the British press as a good “coup” for Keir Starmer.
Guaranteeing economic and energy security in Europe
On the eve of Charles III’s state visit to France, Emmanuel Macron and Keir Starmer “discussed the importance of strengthening cooperation between France and the United Kingdom so that this partnership continues to ensure prosperity and security of the French and the British”, reported the Élysée. “They discussed the need to guarantee economic and energy security in Europe and reaffirmed their desire to provide continued support to Ukraine and its people,” added the French presidency.
Emmanuel Macron’s entourage explained that the meeting was part of “regular” dialogue with European political actors. Keir Starmer presented his host with an Arsenal football team jersey and received cufflinks from the President of the Republic. The 61-year-old Labor opponent, whom polls place well ahead of the Conservatives in power for 13 years, visited the Netherlands and Canada in recent days as part of a tour aimed at consolidating his stature international before the legislative elections planned for early 2025.
“A closer commercial relationship”
He took the opportunity to lay the groundwork for what his European policy would be in the event of victory. In particular, he promised, in an interview published on Sunday by the Financial Times, to negotiate a “much better agreement” on free trade between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The trade and cooperation agreement governing post-Brexit relations, especially economic ones, between Brussels and London entered into force in 2021, with a review clause in 2025. Its application has not been smooth, and the Exiting the EU weighs and will continue to weigh on the British economy, according to economists’ assessments.
Without opening the door to a return to the EU, Keir Starmer considers possible “a closer commercial relationship” with the European bloc, from which the United Kingdom left following the 2016 referendum. In the Netherlands, he also emphasized its program against illegal immigration, Rishi Sunak’s favorite theme, and on which Labor is often considered weaker. Since taking the helm of the party in 2020, the Labor boss has continued to refocus it and turn the page on the Jeremy Corbyn era, his very left-wing predecessor, accused of having allowed develop anti-Semitism within the party.