[Article updated August 26 at 12:55 to reflect the response from President Macron.]
President Emmanuel Macron responded today (August 26) to a comment made by British prime ministerial hopeful Liz Truss, who said that the jury was still out when asked if Mr Macron was a friend or a foe.
Mr Macron, who is currently on a visit to Algeria, said: "Whoever is considered to be the leader of Great Britain, I don't need to question for a second that the UK is a friend of France.
"We live in a complicated world, with more and more illiberal [ideologies] and authoritarian regimes. If we are not capable of saying whether France and the UK are friends or enemies - enemies: it is not a neutral term - we will have problems.
"So I say without doubt that the British people, the British nation, are friends [of France], strong and allied, regardless of its leaders, and sometimes in spite of those leaders."
Emmanuel Macron: "The United Kingdom is a friendly nation, regardless of its leaders, sometimes in spite of its leaders".pic.twitter.com/jSt71yIaDq— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) August 26, 2022
British prime ministerial candidate and current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss made the comment yesterday in response to a question by journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer at a hustings in Norwich.
Ms Truss added: “If I become prime minister, I will judge [Mr Macron] on his deeds, not words”.
Ms Truss’ rival candidate Rishi Sunak was asked the same question and replied “friend”.
The event was the penultimate hustings before a new prime minister is chosen by the Conservative party members, with the winner announced on September 5.
Ms Truss is considered the favourite to be chosen as the UK’s new prime minister.
While Ms Truss’ response provoked laughter from the room of Conservative party members, other British politicians were more critical.
UK barrister and former Conservative MP Anna Soubry derided Ms Truss for her comments in a Twitter post.
“Just when you thought Liz Truss couldn’t sink any lower or sound even sillier…France is one of our most important allies.
“This is what the Conservative party has become. They are unfit for national office and the sooner we have the grown ups back in government, the better,” she wrote.
Just when you thought #LizTruss couldn't sink any lower or sound even sillier.— Anna Soubry (@Anna_Soubry) August 25, 2022
France is one of our most important allies.
This is what the #Conservative party has become. They are unfit for national office and the sooner we have the grown ups back in Government, the better. https://t.co/3tD5YIkiZD
Labour MP David Lammy also reacted to Ms Truss’ answer, calling it a “woeful lack of judgement”.
“Liz Truss using the last weeks of her leadership campaign to insult the president of one of Britain’s closest allies shows a woeful lack of judgement,” he tweeted.
“We need a Prime Minister working in the national interest, not attempting to score cheap points from the Tory base.”
Liz Truss using the last weeks of her leadership campaign to insult the President of one of Britain's closest allies shows a woeful lack of judgement.— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) August 25, 2022
We need a Prime Minister working in the national interest, not attempting to score cheap points from the Tory base. https://t.co/KHrfN2b2sy
France and the UK: the best of frenemies
The UK and France’s relations are long and complex, but in the past century, despite some ups and downs, they have been close allies.
They are both founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Disputes between the two countries have arisen in recent years, mainly due to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The two countries have been involved in a spat over fishing rights in the Channel.
On a wider level, the EU and the UK are still at odds over the Northern Ireland protocol, a clause in the Brexit withdrawal agreement that allows for the unchecked movement of goods between the Republic of Ireland (a member of the EU) and Northern Ireland.
Earlier this week, three French members of the European Parliament called for a stop to the UK diverting sewage water into the Channel and the North Sea.
Water from sewers in the UK has been directed into rivers and the sea after heavy rains caused the sewage system to overflow, leading to warnings about pollution being issued for around 50 beaches in England and Wales.
Pierre Karleskind, Nathalie Loiseau and Stéphanie Yon-Courtin said that the UK was failing environmental engagements since its withdrawal from the European Union.
“We cannot allow the environment, the economic activity of our fishermen and the health of our citizens to be seriously endangered by the UK's repeated negligence in managing its waste water.
“The Channel and the North Sea are not dumping grounds,” Ms Yon-Courtin wrote in a press statement published yesterday (August 24).
In December last year Mr Macron, when asked about the country’s relationship with the UK, said that he “loves” the UK and its people, but that it is difficult to have an “honest” relationship with a government which does not “do as it says it will”
French author and journalist José-Alain Fralon is reported to have once described the UK as “our most dear enemies”, highlighting the love-hate relationship between the countries.