Emmanuel Macron arrives in London to mark 80th anniversary of French Resistance

French President met Boris Johnson at Downing Street for Brexit and coronavirus talks

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French politicians are calling the vandalism of two statues of Charles de Gaulle an insult to the nation, as their president visits London to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the French Resistance.

President Emmanuel Macron arrived in London to honour fallen French fighters but kept socially distant.

The visit marks eight decades since exiled French leader Gen de Gaulle gave his historic radio broadcast, “L’Appel”, to occupied France on June 18, 1940.

The speech, which laid the foundations for the Resistance, was broadcast from London by the BBC with the permission of Winston Churchill, shortly after the Nazi invasion of France in the Second World War.

Mr Macron attended a wreath-laying ceremony with Britain's Prince Charles, and Britain gave awards to four Resistance fighters: Edgard Tupet-Thome, 100; Daniel Cordier, 99; Hubert Germain, 99; and Pierre Simonet, 98.

They were not at the ceremony but will receive their awards in France later.

Mr Macron's meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also gave them the chance to discuss Brexit negotiations and the pandemic.

Mr Macron was welcomed by a ceremonial guard of honour from the Coldstream Guards, and music by their band.

A fleet of Red Arrow planes, flown by the British RAF and their French peers, La Patrouille, flew through London’s skies.

Mr Johnson called the four Resistance fighters heroes for their “courage and sacrifice in defending us and whole world from fascism”.

“The struggles we face today are different to those we confronted together 80 years ago," he said.

But I have no doubt that, working side by side, the UK and France will continue to rise to every new challenge and seize every opportunity that lies ahead."

French President Emmanuel Macron (L), The Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, Sir Kenneth Olisa (2nd L), Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (2nd R) and Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (R) arrive to lay wreaths at the statue of former French president Charles de Gaulle at Carlton Gardens in central London on June 18, 2020 during a visit to mark the anniversary of former de Gaulle's appeal to French people to resist the Nazi occupation.  Macron visited London on June 18 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of former French president Charles de Gaulle's appeal to French people to resist the Nazi occupation during World War II. / AFP / POOL / Tolga AKMEN

French political leaders condemned the vandalism of two statues of de Gaulle at the weekend.

One monument in the northern French town of Hautmont was daubed with the word "Slaver" and defaced with orange paint, while another in Paris was covered in yellow paint.

Both countries have been hit hard by the pandemic but Britain has fared worse.

More than 42,000 people have died in the UK compared with about 29,000 in France.

“The Prime Minister and President also welcomed the ongoing cooperation between the UK and France on small boats and illegal migration," a Downing Street spokesman said.

“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."

The two nations are easing their lockdowns in different ways.

France has reduced its social distancing rule to one metre apart, while Britain still maintains a two-metre policy.

France is allowing schools to open from Monday, but those in the UK are unable to do so with the two-metre social distancing rule in force.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: French president Emmanuel Macron lays a wreath at foot of the statue of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother during a ceremony at Carlton Gardens on June 18, 2020 in London, England.  L'Appel du 18 Juin (The Appeal of 18 June) was the speech made by Charles de Gaulle to the French in 1940 and broadcast in London by the BBC. It called for the Free French Forces to fight against German occupation. The appeal is often considered to be the origin of the French Resistance in World War II. President Macron is the first foreign dignitary to visit the UK since the coronavirus lockdown began. (Photo by  Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Mr Johnson has refused to say when the distance might be reduced but has insisted that people “watch this space” on Wednesday.