UK wants 'close and co-operative' relationship with France, says Boris Johnson


Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has assured his French counterpart that the UK wants to remain "as close as possible" to France even after leaving the European Union.

Mr Johnson was speaking after talks in Paris with foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who previously accused him of having "lied a lot" to voters during the referendum campaign, when he was a standard-bearer for Brexit.

Speaking in French, the Foreign Secretary made no reference to their earlier differences, insisting that he is developing "a close and co-operative relationship" with Mr Ayrault.

"I hope I have been clear that even if the UK has voted to leave the EU, it doesn't mean that we will be leaving Europe," said Mr Johnson. "We wish to be as close as possible to our allies, most particularly France, throughout the forthcoming years.

"I would like to take once again the opportunity to thank Mr Ayrault. We have already started to develop a close and co-operative relationship and I hope it may continue while we face many challenges ahead together as friends and allies."

Mr Johnson said the talks, which came just two days after the murder of a priest by Islamist militants in Normandy, had focused on the terror threat faced by the UK and France.

Pledging the UK's "solidarity" with France, the Foreign Secretary said he believed the allies would win their struggle against Islamic State - also known as Daesh - which has claimed that the killers of Father Jacques Hamel were its "soldiers".

And he said he and Mr Ayrault had reaffirmed their shared commitment to the Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border checks to take place on French soil.

Mr Johnson said: "The UK stands in solidarity with France. The threats we face are the same and we use the same values to reply to them. We will continue to do so.

"Mr Ayrault and I agreed that Daesh poses a direct threat to both our countries, as we have seen this week.

"We are clear that Daesh does not represent Islam. Together with France, the UK is playing a leading role in the global coalition committed to defeating them and we will win."

Mr Ayrault said the terror threat required not only "joint mobilisation" in the fight against Islamic State but also efforts to ensure that their attacks do not divide communities at home.

He said France would continue to strengthen security and intelligence co-operation with the UK, adding that the two countries shared "the same concerns, the same will".

"We must do everything not to give Daesh what they are looking for - division," said the French foreign minister. "We must defend our democracies, our principles, and that is not incompatible with the security of our citizens."