France and UK should be ashamed of their immature bickering – .

France and UK should be ashamed of their immature bickering – .

The writer is special advisor to the Montaigne Institute and visiting professor-researcher at King’s College London.

During the Suez Crisis of October 1956, France and the United Kingdom were punished as misbehaved teenagers by the United States and the Soviet Union, the superpowers of the time. The Franco-British attempt to reset the imperial clock in the Middle East was both futile and anachronistic.

Sixty-five years later, the United Kingdom and France are getting back to it, but this time they face each other in a no less childish game of blackmail, deception and retaliation. Do London and Paris really have to exert the kind of pressure one would expect from Moscow and Beijing? Have we lost our common sense and the ability to prioritize the bigger challenges we both face?

To use the language used during the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, it is high time to “defuse”. As the world faces the prospect of a new Cold War between China and the United States, Paris and London need each other more than ever. But neither seems aware of the irresponsible nature of the skirmishes they engage in.

These feuds range from irregular migration across the Channel to fishing, from the British effort to rewrite the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland to the secretly planned Aukus Pact between Australia, the UK and the United States, which offended the French so much. Each side seems more determined to feed a growing appetite for confrontation than to seek compromise.

The international context highlights the immaturity of London and Paris. Chinese pressure on Taiwan is increasing day by day. President Vladimir Putin’s Russia blackmailed Europe on energy. Yet the British and French are waging a war of words, if not deeds, which seems to reproduce tensions between Western democracies and their despotic rivals in the East.

Frankly speaking, France must not threaten to deprive the Channel Island of Jersey of electricity while Putin is doing the same with gas to the whole of the European continent. For its part, the UK should not play the populist cards in a blatant and offensive manner that leaves Paris with no choice but to respond in kind.

How can London and Paris not be ashamed of the ridiculous and totally irresponsible deterioration of their bilateral relationship? When the building is on fire, the differences between tenants are less important than the urgency to tackle the larger causes of the fire. France and the UK still describe each other as cousins ​​and neighbors. What happened to common sense, rationality and pragmatism on both sides of the Channel?

And why now, precisely when geopolitics demands a stronger sense of unity and solidarity among nations that share common democratic values? It is undoubtedly an unfortunate coincidence that the UK is ruled by Boris Johnson, a provocative and confrontational Prime Minister, just as France prepares to hold presidential elections in April. This is the wrong man at the wrong time.

Or rather, bad men – because President Emmanuel Macron also likes to play with fire, and he too can be needlessly provocative and confrontational, as his relations with Algeria recently demonstrated. As London intensifies its provocations, Macron and his government do not want to be seen as soft by French citizens.

It is so easy in our age of social media, fake news and professional political agitators to resurrect the worst in the complex bilateral relationship between the two most traditionally arrogant countries in Europe.

Seen from Paris, the British provocations seem all the more disconnected from reality as London’s absolute dependence on Washington is considered a dangerous gamble. Do the British really have to put all their eggs in the American basket, when the former superpower seems so fragile and so domestically polarized, in short, so untrustworthy?

During the Brexit negotiations, London attempted to apply a “divide and conquer” strategy in its relations with the EU. He failed then. Can he succeed now?

In his recent speech to Portugal – the UK’s longest-standing ally on the continent – Lord David Frost was in the game again, hinting that the countries of Central Europe were closer to London and Washington than of Paris and Berlin on critical strategic issues. He might be right. Macron’s France, in its tough stance on the UK, is perhaps more isolated in the EU than it was a few years ago.

Ultimately, however, only Moscow and Beijing will benefit from these short-term “divide and rule” political tactics. It is therefore urgent that London and Paris find reason in their mutual relations.


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