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President Emmanuel Macron will visit the UK to mark the 80th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s appeal to the French resistance and to talk Brexit with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.But ahead of his visit, foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was prepared for a no deal Brexit and mocked the UK for not fully understanding its departure from the Union.
He told the French daily La Croix: “We cannot exclude the prospect of a ‘no deal’ but we want to avoid it.“The British are playing against the clock but that is not always the way to reach a good agreement.”
He said Britain had still not understood the full meaning of Brexit even after formally leaving the EU.
Mr Le Drian said: “When you are outside the Union, you do not enjoy the same advantages as when you are inside. You cannot have a foot in and a foot out.”
“You have to choose and I am not sure that they have understood the full magnitude of their withdrawal.”
His comments come Mr Macron, who will be hosted by heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, prepares to mark de Gaulle’s June 18, 1940 “Appel” from BBC headquarters in London for resistance to the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War.
This will be before a ceremonial event and then bilateral talks in Number 10.
Mr Johnson said the four surviving “Compagnons” of the Order of Liberation – Edgard Tupet-Thome, 100, Daniel Bouyjou-Cordier, 99, Hubert Germain, 99, and Pierre Simonet, 98 – will receive honorary MBEs in tribute to their “courage and sacrifice in defending us and the whole world from fascism”.
The awards will be presented at a ceremony in France in the coming months.In Downing Street, Mr Johnson and Mr Macron will view artefacts – including letters – documenting General de Gaulle’s time in London and his partnership with Sir Winston Churchill.
The statue of Britain’s wartime leader in Parliament Square was uncovered on Wednesday evening ahead of Mr Macron’s arrival, after it was boarded up for fear of attack.
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The leaders will hold bilateral talks to discuss the coronavirus crisis and other issues.Mr Johnson vowed to raise travel between the UK and France at the meeting.
They will also watch a flypast of the Red Arrows and their French equivalent, La Patrouille de France, to mark the anniversary of the Appel.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the visit showed that despite some difficult episodes in centuries of Franco-British relations, the two neighbours stood beside each other in times of need.
He said: ”It shows that with France, when we’ve had sometimes a difficult relationship at points in our history, that actually when it really counts we stand shoulder to shoulder together.
“There are a huge range of issues, Brexit, COVID, I’m cooperating very closely with the French on Iran, the Middle East and on Hong Kong and actually it’s a really important relationship and we’re proud he’s coming here to bestow that honour on London and on the British people.”
The UK has told the EU it must break a fundamental impasse to clinch a Brexit trade deal in the next few months.
The UK left the bloc on January 31 but the main terms of its membership remain in place during a transition period until the end of this year, by which time both sides hope to have clinched and approved a free trade deal.
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