Emmanuel Macron is a “friend” of the U.K., Prime Minister Liz Truss conceded Thursday, after previously being unsure whether or not the French president counted as a “foe.”
Truss raised eyebrows across the Channel over the summer when, on the campaign trail to become Conservative party leader, she said “the jury is out” on whether Macron is Britain’s “friend or foe,” and promised to judge him by “deeds not words.”
It prompted Macron to quip: “It’s never good to lose your bearings in life,” and to warn of “serious problems” if the U.K. could not tell between a long-standing international ally and an adversary.
But, in a sign of thawing relations between the U.K. and EU after months of bitter rows over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol, Truss took a different tack Thursday ahead of a meeting with the French leader in Prague.
She told reporters: “I work very, very closely with President Macron and the French government and what we’re talking about is how the U.K. and France can work more closely together to build more nuclear power stations and to make sure that both countries have energy security in the future.”
She added: “We’re both very clear the foe is Vladimir Putin, who has through his appalling war in Ukraine threatened freedom and democracy in Europe and pushed up energy prices which we’re now all having to deal with.”
Asked if that made Macron a friend, Truss replied: “He is a friend.”
In a joint statement issued after their talks, the two leaders — who have agreed to hold the next U.K.-France Summit in France in 2023 — “reaffirmed the strong and historic ties between their two countries,” and promised work on “a renewed bilateral agenda” on energy, migration and support for Ukraine.
“President Macron and Prime Minister Truss welcomed the quality of the discussions during the first summit of the European Political Community and look forward to next steps,” the joint statement concluded.
Truss’ attendance at the Prague meeting of the European Political Community — the initial brainchild of Macron — held one further sign of potential detente with the EU, this time on energy.
The U.K. was kicked out of the North Seas Energy Cooperation group — an intergovernmental organization meant to accelerate the shift to renewables — by the European Commission in 2020, and the two sides have since traded blows over energy security.
But Downing Street said after a bilateral meeting between Truss and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala that the pair had “welcomed the prospect of the United Kingdom resuming participation” in the group, and in a subsequent statement, said Fiala had “confirmed plans to renew the U.K.’s participation in the North Sea Energy Cooperation group,” although no further details were provided.
Esther Webber contributed reporting.