that of Emmanuel Macron The entourage declared that the meeting was part of the “regular” dialogue with European political actors. They spoke unaided in English for approximately 45 minutes.
This type of meeting is not new for Mr. Macron, who regularly meets opposition leaders, sometimes even during electoral campaigns: he welcomed Olaf Scholz to the Elysée in 2021 before becoming German chancellor, and met Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019 before he became president of Ukraine.
Note that a little over a year ago, Liz Trusswhile campaigning to become prime minister, refused to say whether Mr Macron was a “friend or foe”.
However, this is not seen as a step in a negotiation: France has always maintained that the British government should only lead Brexit negotiations with the European Commission in Brussels.
“It’s an opportunity to listen, not to hold side discussions,” says Georgina Wright of the Institut Montaigne, a Paris think tank. “Everything relating to the EU/Brexit agreements will have to be negotiated with the EU – if and only if Labor comes to power.
The center-left Liberation party said the meeting was “an opportunity to develop its image abroad while continuing to refine its vision of the United Kingdom, with a year of elections… a vote that could end more than a decade of crossing the desert for Labor. »
Daily business The echoes said: “Their handshake could be the first of many official meetings,” adding that it is not only a way of laying the groundwork for a possible Labor victory in 2024, but also a chance for Mr. Macron to implement a progressive policy. in the spotlight at a time when the far right is gaining ground across Europe.
As for the chances of Mr Starmer being able to rewrite the Brexit deal, diplomats say it will depend heavily on what he has to offer – which will be limited, as he has ruled out single market membership and a customs union with the EU.
There is also no urgency on the EU side to adjust the deal which is working relatively well for the bloc, but there will be an openness to talking about improvements in specific areas, such as controls. veterinarians of animal and plant products, deeper cooperation in diplomatic and security matters, energy partnerships and even participation in EU peacekeeping missions.
“The EU has an incentive to get involved,” said Stefanie Walter, a researcher at Bruegel, an economic think tank based in Brussels. “The EU would be very happy to see the UK participate more closely in the single market. But it would have to adhere to the rules of the single market, and I don’t see how there would be a willingness to grant the UK many exemptions if it didn’t do so. And the fact that there is a new government in the UK will not change anything, because the single market goes to the heart of the EU.”
A key factor will be that Mr Starmer is not part of the previous line of Tory leaders – notably former Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who have antagonized the EU and reneged on their deals. Officials say that by traveling to Paris and The Hague last week, Mr Starmer is showing his desire to build constructive relationships – and restore trust between Britain and the EU.
“Firstly, beyond what the UK ‘can offer’ to the EU, the value and importance of more coherent, more serious and more forward-looking engagement must not be underestimated. estimated. There has been a complete lack of political leadership in the UK towards the EU and if Starmer achieves this it will build goodwill,” says Mujtaba Rahman, of consultancy Eurasia Group.
The Paris meeting came just as EU ministers discussed a Franco-German plan to reform the bloc by creating a system of “associate members” that could include Britain.
The report calls for an overhaul of the EU’s structures as it prepares to expand to 30 or more countries, including Ukraine and the Balkan countries. It indicates that the EU could consist of four levels, with firstly a restricted circle of selected member countries; then the EU itself; monitoring of associate members; and, at the broadest level, the recently created European Political Community of 44 countries, of which the United Kingdom is already a part.
The report, written by a group of 12 experts, also suggests streamlining the EU structure, including reducing the number of commissioners and MEPs and removing national vetoes. If the UK joined the third tier and became an associate member, it could participate in the EU single market, but would be subject to rulings of the European Court of Justice and would have to contribute to the EU budget.