Armistice Day: UK and France 'stand shoulder-to-shoulder' in face of Russian aggression

James Cleverly says hard-earned peace in Europe has been 'shattered' by Moscow

Poppies on crosses fill the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in London. EPA
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The UK foreign secretary travelled to France this week to commemorate the ceasefire which led to peace negotiations that brought the First World War to an end.

Friday will mark the first time European leaders take part in Armistice remembrance services since Russia invaded Ukraine.

James Cleverly will attend a remembrance service hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and meet Chelsea Pensioners fundraising in France for the armed forces.

Downing Street hopes his trip will build on bilateral efforts to tackle the flow of migrants travelling from France to the UK via illegal routes.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held talks with Mr Macron earlier this week on the issue on the sidelines of the Cop27 UN climate change summit in Egypt.

Mr Sunak pledged to “get a grip” of the spiralling crisis and said talks with the French leader left him with “renewed confidence and optimism” that a solution could be found.

The foreign secretary will on Friday meet French counterpart Catherine Colonna to discuss the countries’ shared challenges. Illegal migration was expected to be on the agenda along with support for Ukraine and joint efforts to improve energy security.

Mr Cleverly expressed regret that this Armistice Day takes places against the backdrop of war in Europe.

“Since 1918 we have marked Armistice Day and paid tribute to the brave men and women who have served to give us peace,” he said. “Yet as we salute our troops this year, this peace has been shattered by a Russian aggressor.

“As we honour the war dead of the past, we also remember Ukraine’s fight for freedom today.

“The UK stands steadfast with our friends and allies in defence of freedom and democracy in Ukraine and I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a historic ally in Paris today.”

Mr Cleverly’s visit to France will also include an appearance at the Paris Peace Forum where he will give a speech to world leaders. Common threats including the war in Ukraine will be discussed.

London and Paris are working on a new agreement aimed at stopping the flow of small boats departing beaches in northern France for Britain. The agreement is understood to be worth about £80 million and is in its final stages of negotiations.

Multiple media reports have suggested it would open a window for British Border Force officers to observe French operations, co-ordinating beach searches for migrants and hunts for trafficking gangs.

The money will also pay for an increase in the 800 daily patrols that are currently carried out by French officers, as well as more surveillance equipment to detect boats before they enter the water, The Times reported.

Downing Street said no timeline had been set on the discussions but declined to comment on any details that could be contained in the deal.

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Updated: November 10, 2022, 10:30 PM