Ambassador: Franco-British links are important

Every month the British Ambassador to France, Ed Llewellyn, shares an insight into his role.

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This job is nothing if not varied.

Last month I joined the crew of the Royal Tamesis on the river Loire, trying to row in time.

Moments later I was on dry land alongside the Mayor of Orléans, addressing a crowd of several thousand to open the Festival de Loire. I tried to make my remarks about the role of Jeanne d’Arc in our collective histories suitably diplomatic…

Since 2003, the festival has taken place every two years and is the biggest European celebration of river-based boats.

This year, the river Thames was the river of honour, with the Mersey and Severn also represented.

The quayside and British Village (see photos) were buzzing with activity. French and British boats were moored together along the river.

With the Tricolore, Union Jack and ‘Les Voisins’ flags everywhere, this was not just a celebration of river life but of the partnership between our countries.

It was a moment to remember the culture and history we already share and to look forward to invigorating that friendship.

The links between our two countries are everywhere.

In the Centre-Val de Loire region, there are over 50 British investments employing around 6,000 local people.

We supported the Mairie of Orléans in bringing the Franco-British festival to life and it was a reminder of the strength of local links between our countries.

Building partnerships at every level is a big part of what we do at the British Embassy.

That is why, in March this year, we hosted the first UK France Mayors’ Summit in London bringing together over 100 regional leaders from both countries. This conference renewed enthusiasm to reinforce and initiate local partnerships and projects – particularly those that have a practical benefit for local communities.

The Festival de Loire is a great example.

Now from the local to the global: I was interested to hear how the organisers had made sure to off-set the carbon produced by every boat in the festival via a partnership with a local environmental charity.

We got the good news a week or two ago that the UK and Italy will co-host COP 26. 2020’s biggest climate change event will be held in Glasgow – it’s a moment to show UK leadership in this area. The Summit’s President, Claire Perry, was in Paris recently, to discuss with the French how we can carry on their good work.

I’ve focused here on the ties between French and British communities but I can’t end without a word on Brexit. I am aware that there are a number of British citizens living in Orléans. My team held an outreach meeting with a group from the local area. This was the third in a week, and altogether we saw about 500 people.

Connexion subscribers will also have seen my letter sent with this edition – and my request that you spread the news to Britons who are not perhaps following the issue as closely.

I wanted to share, too, news that there will be support for British organisations to help others deal with their change in residency status.

For information on this and the actions you need to take, please follow