Johnson, Macron hold first face-to-face talks since COVID outbreak

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron held talks at 10 Downing Street, the first meeting between heads of state in Britain since the coronavirus pandemic started.

The two spent around 45 minutes in private talks on Thursday, after which they watched a flypast over London by the Royal Air Force (RAF) Red Arrows and its French counterpart team, La Patrouille de France, Xinhua news agency reported.

The two did not face the media after their talks, and instead Downing Street issued a statement about the meeting.

On Brexit negotiations, Johnson welcomed the agreement to intensify talks in July and underlined that Britain does not believe it makes sense for the negotiations to be prolonged into the fall, according to the statement.

Britain has formally ruled out the possibility of an extended post-Brexit transition period. Johnson on Monday held video talks with European Union (EU) chiefs, with both sides calling for a new momentum in the search for an agreement before the end of this year when the Brexit transition period ends.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Macron welcomed the ongoing cooperation between Britain and France on small boats and illegal migration, said the statement.

Hundreds of refugees have been making the perilous journey in small boats across the English Channel, one of the world’s busiest waterways, from mainland Europe.

The two leaders also discussed cooperation on the fight against coronavirus.

“They agreed that the partnership between our countries will be crucial in overcoming the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring the global recovery is green and sustainable,” added the statement.

Macron’s visit to London came on the 80th anniversary of a famous speech made by French Resistance leader Charles de Gaulle in a BBC radio broadcast directed at people in Nazi-occupied France.

During their meeting, Johnson and Macron reflected on the sacrifice made by the British and French people in the World War II and on the enduring strength of the Britain-France relationship.

“They highlighted the modern day successes of this friendship including the political and defence cooperation enshrined in the Lancaster House Agreement ten years ago,” the statement said.

At Downing Street, Johnson guided Macron around a display of artefacts documenting General de Gaulle’s time in London and his partnership with Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Earlier, Macron and Britain’s Prince Charles laid wreaths at a statue in London of General de Gaulle. A statue of Churchill in London, boarded up after being vandalised during Black Lives Matter demonstrations, was uncovered ahead of the French leaders’ visit to the British capital.

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