London, Jan 19: Britain’s departure from the European Union should not prevent a high level of cooperation with France, President Emmanuel Macron has said at the end of a British-French summit.
The French President and British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke after a day of talks and negotiations during which a series of agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed covering a wide range of topics from defence to culture, Xinhua reported.
Speaking at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, where the summit took place, Macron on Thursday said he respected the Brexit decision by the British public but regretted it. He also said Britain could not have the same level of access to areas such as financial services once it left the EU.
He said he is not aiming to punish Britain, adding: “The choice is on the British side. If you want access to the single market, be my guest.”
There may be some difficulties in the short term but the relationship will remain deep between the two close neighbours, Macron said.
May said she believed it is in the interest of both Britain and the EU to continue to have a good economic partnership with Britain.
“We will be looking for a deep and special partnership for the future,” she said, referring to the upcoming negotiations with Brussels on a future trading relationship.
Both sides agreed to British-funded improvements to border security along the French coast at Calais to deter migrants’ intent on reaching Britain.
The British government is reported to be paying around $60 million for enhance border controls on French soil.
An agreement was signed, Macron said to enable the famous Bayeux Tapestry to leave France for the first time in almost 1,000 years on loan for exhibition in Britain in 2022.
“It is fragile and has never travelled abroad in nearly 1,000 years,” said the President, adding: “Our shared history is reflected in the loan of the Bayeux.” He said the loan forms part of a wider cultural exchange between Britain and France over the next four years.
May said the relationship between Britain and France has always gone beyond defence and security, saying both sides had agreed to build on existing ties.
“After Brexit we will remain steadfast allies. We are Europe’s two foremost military powers. We’ve agreed that UK-France cooperation remains critical to European defence,” added May.
Macron and May started a hectic working day with a lunch in a traditional 17th century pub before heading to Sandhurst where they inspected a guard of honour by the Coldstream Guards as the French national anthem rang out.
Downing Street said in a statement later that the two countries are the only European powers with the ability and political will to deploy and sustain significant military force.