Emmanuel Macron has offered Liz Truss an olive branch after her controversial “friend or foe” remarks by saying after their first bilateral talks that it is time to “move on”.
The two leaders appeared to smooth over tensions during their meeting in New York, which No 10 said was dominated by Ukraine and energy security, but avoided the controversial issues of the Northern Ireland protocol and migration.
After the talks, the French president told reporters: “I now believe in proof, in results. There is a will to re-engage, to move on, and to show that we are allies and friends in a complex world.”
During the Conservative leadership contest, Truss said the “jury’s out” over whether Macron was a “friend or foe” after her predecessor Boris Johnson clashed with him over Brexit and small boats crossing the Channel.
In what appeared to be a softening of her stance, Truss told reporters on the plane to New York that she wants to have a “constructive” relationship with France, working with Macron on migration, Brexit, energy security and Ukraine.
Government sources suggested the prime minister’s more conciliatory tone reflected her wish to be diplomatic on the day of the Queen’s funeral, although after the talks, No 10 said the two leaders wanted to “strengthen” their relationship.
After the Queen’s death, the French president tweeted about the “unbreakable” ties between France and the UK.
No 10 and French sources confirmed the potential flashpoint issue of the post-Brexit trading relationship had not been discussed. However, the French claimed that migration had been raised by Truss, but only in passing.
French sources revealed the two leaders briefly discussed Macron’s European political community project to address political and security-related challenges facing the continent.
The government is wary of the suggestion that the UK could join the new body and the prime minister’s official spokesperson said Truss wants to know more detail before giving her view, amid concerns it could rival the G7 as the best forum for cooperation.
After the meeting, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The leaders welcomed the impressive advances made by the Ukrainian armed forces in recent days. They agreed on the importance of Ukraine’s friends and allies staying the course, and supporting the country militarily, economically and politically.
“As our people face a difficult winter with huge uncertainty of energy supply and the cost of living, the prime minister and President Macron underscored the importance of working together to end reliance on Russian energy and strengthen energy security. We must continue to demonstrate to [Vladimir] Putin that his economic blackmail over energy and food supplies will not succeed.
“The prime minister and president looked forward to strengthening our partnership with France and other likeminded European nations, including through the G7 and Nato.”