At the time I write this column it’s not yet clear what the next steps will be in the Brexit journey – one which has seen many twists and turns over the last three years.
What is clear is that, at the embassy, my team and I are continuing to prepare for every eventuality.
Above all, we have continued to focus – both publicly and privately – on protecting the rights of British citizens here in France after Brexit.
We will continue to do so. In late September, for example, I spoke at the Assemblée Nationale – pressing French MPs to help ensure that France’s offer to British citizens matches what the UK has announced will be the case for EU citizens in the UK – deal or no deal.
I also held a meeting with French MPs at the Embassy in Paris, making the same points – which I, and British Ministers, raise regularly with French Ministers and officials.
We have continued our programme of outreach meetings for British citizens across France – we have held nearly 100 meetings now – and will continue to do so. The embassy will be following events closely and communicating key updates to help you stay informed…
Beyond Brexit, we continue to work to maintain and strengthen the ties between the UK and France in the numerous different fields in which our countries work closely together – as allies, neighbours and friends.
Nowhere is that more true than in the field of defence. Exercise Griffin Strike, a formidable effort involving British and French maritime forces, took place off the blustery coast of Scotland in October. A Royal Navy Admiral led the maritime element of a new UK-France Combined Joint Expeditionary Force from the FS Tonnerre, a French helicopter carrier.
This was the first of a series of six final exercises which will take place leading to the achievement of the force’s Full Operational Capability next summer – a powerful and practical example of the cooperation between our nations.
But that cooperation extends much more broadly. This autumn we celebrated the twinning of Gare de Bordeaux Saint-Jean and St Pancras in London, and the direct rail service that we hope will link the two cities in the next few years. At the embassy, we were honoured to host an evening celebrating the work of JRR Tolkien with an intricate Aubusson tapestry.
You can see the tapestry and other works at the Tolkien exhibition now open at the BNF Paris until January 2020. In fact British culture is very much flavour of the month, with a Bacon exhibition at the Pompidou Centre, Hepworth sculptures coming to Musée Rodin, the ‘Golden Age of British Painting’ at the Musée du Luxembourg with the Tate, and a “so British – Collection Pinault” exhibition in Rouen.
As the campaign says, British culture truly is great – indeed it is one of our best exports!
We also hosted two screenings of the Downton Abbey film with leaders from the creative industries in the UK and France joining a panel discussion afterwards. Don’t worry, I won’t give any plot spoilers away…