The great Bayeux Tapestry bribe: Macron’s charm offensive to push May into migrant deal
France will seize upon an opportunity presented by Brexit talks to get its way with the UK over the external British border, migrant numbers, and a financial deal for both.
President Emmanuel Macron, who has successfully charmed and smarmed for support across the EU has become increasingly popular within the bloc, has spotted an opportunity as the increasingly unpopular UK prepares to leave the club.
Every one of the remaining 27 member states has its own demands in return for supporting Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes for the establishment of a post-Brexit trade union between the UK and EU.
Now, France will have its turn as President Macron prepares to meet May at the British military base, Sandhurst, on Thursday. In an attempt to butter up the British, Macron has made an unusual move by allowing the Bayeux Tapestry to move to its neighboring nation for the first time in 950 years.
The tapestry, which depicts the Norman conquest of England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, will reportedly travel across the Channel with Macron’s seal of approval. An Elysee official said the loan was agreed in principle but would not take place for around five years, subject to a number of tests.
May is likely to make an announcement in the coming weeks, using the loan to exemplify the strength of Anglo-French relations. However, the loan is likely to reignite a debate on where the tapestry belongs, with many suggesting it was made in Kent, England.
Macron is believed to be preparing to offer Britain support in trade talks with the EU if London meets a number of demands. Early reports say these will include the funding of a multi-million pound refurbishment of the British border in Northern France. Under the Le Touquet Accord, Britain’s border is in France and vice versa.
Macron is threatening to tear up the agreement if Britain does not agree to take more migrants, and fund new changes to bolster border forces. May is likely to agree to provide the cash, but the taking of migrants could be a sticking point as more than 1,000 are currently believed to be in France, hoping to reach the UK.
This week, Macron attacked charities working in Calais, some of which are British. He claimed that they are lying to would-be refugees and obstructing authorities.
“When associations encourage these men and these women to stay [in Calais], to install themselves in an illegal situation, even to pass to the other side of the border, they are assuming an immense responsibility. Never, ever will they have the state at their side,” Macron said.
“Each time that [migrants] are told they will be taken to the police, they are being lied to. Each time they are told that in shelters, the police are waiting for them, they are being lied to. And it is this lie, spread by too many commentators which is now damaging our collective efficiency… and the humanity we owe these people.”
Officials say there are around 500 migrants in Calais, but charities say that the real number is actually double, with new arrivals every week. Speaking to police officers and soldiers at the port, Macron claimed that charity workers were dissuading migrants from seeking asylum in France.
The young president said he would “evoke with Theresa May several issues that we must improve in our joint management. Better handling the question of lone children migrants, reinforcing police co-operation… and releasing funds to support important projects for the development of the Calais area: those are the points we will carry... in the dialogue we will have with our British friends.”
Despite Macron’s claims, many migrants in Calais and Dunkirk are attempting to reach Britain to join family and are not being influenced by workers. Dozens currently living in the bushes have previously lived in the UK.
Only 43 of 410 moved to shelters inland have claimed asylum in the country. Gerard Collomb, the interior minister, said France would “ask our British friends to take a certain number.”