Should France and Britain be doing more to set aside their differences in their approach to the Channel crisis?

Tensions over the British Channel have seen the Johnson-Macron relationship plunge to an all-time low... can these playground insults be replaced by a return to diplomacy?

Ross Bennett
13th December 2021
Image Credit: Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron, Wikimedia Commons; French flag and the Union Jack, Pixabay.

It was the words of Sylvie Bermann, former French ambassador to the UK, that depicted a particularly stormy Franco-British relationship – describing current relations as “Never been as bad since Waterloo”. Whilst this could be seen as hyperbolic fear mongering, Bermann isn’t far off from the truth.

Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron no longer enjoy the friendly relationship and schoolboy camaraderie they once had. Formerly exchanging messages over WhatsApp (something that angered those who wanted talks done through official channels), the two have turned into the frostiest of rivals. With Macron referring to Johnson as “un clown” and Johnson responding with “prenez un grip”, the two have exchanged childish jibes and playground level taunting.

Frankly, it is less likely that these fractured relations are down to a personal dislike and more to do with politics. After all, with Macron having an election coming up in April it would be beneficial to stir up anti-British sentiment and posture as someone who does not back down from a challenge. However, whilst this tit-for-tat game being played by the two leaders is being done to win over favour in their respective countries, frankly there are bigger issues on the plate than upcoming elections.
After all, with a recent dispute about fishing rights forcing Britain to send two patrol boats and France threatening to cut off electricity to Jersey, the Channel has become the epicentre of Franco-British tension. Unfortunately for those affected by the dispute, there has been little thawing of frostiness between the two governments. It seems that both are playing politics and popularity instead of trying to ease the vitriol between the pair.

Understandably, there has been a growing sense of being fed up with Macron and Johnson’s hissy-fits among political advisors, with even those in the UK government under the belief that the current poor relations are now irreparable. What can be said is that drastic work needs to be done in order to reduce tensions between the two nations. Bluntly, how can Macron and Johnson be expected to negotiate with each other if they’re too busy insulting each other in the press? It is paramount that the pair set aside any differences they might have so they can tackle this hot button issue that is the Channel crisis, with such a vital trading route for both nations it would be disastrous to let this dilemma brew and smoulder into something that could cause even more mounting problems for all parties involved.

To put it plainly, it is a waste of time and effort on both sides to continue this worthless bickering when there are actual matters of importance at stake.

To put it plainly, it is a waste of time and effort on both sides to continue this worthless bickering when there are actual matters of importance at stake. These petty squabbles distract from an actual sense of diplomacy, something surely needed if Johnson and Macron have any real intentions of clearing up this crisis in the Channel. The pair need to grow up, put aside their differences and make well-intentioned decisions with the express purpose of repairing fractured relations and making steps to overcoming the obstacles presented by Brexit and international diplomacy.

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