May and Macron to agree counter-terror measures as intelligence heads meet

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron will agree moves to counter terrorism and boost defence co-operation at a summit which will feature the first meeting of Britain and France's five intelligence chiefs together.

The heads of MI5, MI6, GCHQ and France's DGSE and DGSI will meet to discuss how the UK and its allies across the Channel can work to counter threats such as the targeting of concert venues like Manchester Arena and the Bataclan in Paris, and terrorists using the internet as a "safe space".

The UK will also commit to participating in the French president's "European intervention initiative," which officials do not regard as a European army but a plan to enhance co-ordination of existing armed forces.

Undated handout photo issued by the Bayeux Museum of a section of the Bayeux Tapestry. (Bayeux Museum/PA)
Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron are expected to discuss plans to loan the Bayeux Tapestry for display in Britain for the first time ever. (Bayeux Museum/PA)

Britain will agree to send three RAF Chinook helicopters and around 50 non-combat troops to Mali.

They will provide logistical support to French forces attempting to bring stability to "ungoverned spaces" in the Sahel region of Africa where Islamist extremist groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda have gained a foothold.

Brexit could be discussed on Mr Macron's first visit as president but talks are expected to focus on the bilateral UK-France relationship.

As part of that Mr Macron is understood to be seeking new financial contributions from Britain to boost security at the French port of Calais as part of a new treaty on the handling of migrants.

A view of a migrant camp in Calais, France, as French President Emmanuel Macron visited the region.
Mr Macron visited Calais on Tuesday ahead of the UK-France summit.

But in response to French reporting of a statement from the Elysee Palace, which said the treaty would "complete" the Le Touquet agreement that allows Britain and France to station border officials on each other's soil, Downing Street said discussions were "ongoing".

Before bilateral talks with Mr Macron at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in Berkshire, the Prime Minister said: "Today's summit will underline that we remain committed to defending our people and upholding our values as liberal democracies in the face of any threat, whether at home or abroad.

"But our friendship has always gone far beyond defence and security and the scope of today's discussions represents its broad and unique nature.

"And while this summit takes place as the UK prepares to leave the EU, this does not mean that the UK is leaving Europe.

"What is clear from the discussions we will have today is that a strong relationship between our two countries is in the UK, France and Europe's interests, both now and into the future."

The pair are also expected to discuss what the PM described as "very significant" plans to loan the Bayeux Tapestry to Britain, where it has never been displayed.

The UK Government is understood to be looking at whether the gesture could be part of a wider exchange of artefacts.

Ahead of the UK-France Summit later this week, we reflect on the achievements of UK-France cooperation over the last 100 years

-- Ministry of Defence (@DefenceHQ) January 16, 2018

Commitments will be made to a 10,000-strong Franco-Anglo combined joint expeditionary force to be ready by 2020.

And France will in 2019 contribute troops to the UK-led battlegroup in Estonia to counter Russian aggression.

On the possibility of the UK making fresh payments to France to beef up security at Calais, Mrs May's official spokesman said: "We have in the past contributed to security where it required bolstering and obviously that's in the interests of the UK as well as in the interests of France.

"If there are requests for further help in relation to security we would look at those."

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