Kent Messenger Column - 25-01-18
For many of us Brits the entente cordial is engrained in our psyche; whether it be our shared love of sport, cheese or wine - families across our countries have much in common. For Simon and I, France will always hold a special place in our hearts, having enjoyed our honeymoon there many years ago.
I was delighted therefore to see our close relationship with France reinforced from the very top last week. Whatever your politics, it was hard not to have your head turned by President Macron's infectious enthusiasm and Gallic charm.
During his visit, the French and British Governments reached a raft of agreements on defence and security co-operation in particular. This is not however about pie in the sky diplomacy, the issues discussed have real relevance to us here in Maidstone and the Weald.
Perhaps most significantly, a commitment was made to modernise the border between our great nations. This is vitally important as it will ensure that, after we leave the European Union, trade can flow freely, boosting our economy and providing opportunities for our businesses; whilst ensuring that our sovereignty and security are safeguarded.
The agreement is crucial because, as we remember from the Summer of Stack in 2015, we in Kent often bear the brunt of any problems at the border. I also know from discussions with KCC that co-operation between our countries is vital to ensuring the safe and sustainable relocation of unaccompanied child refugees.
Our relationship with France is indicative of how we will continue to exercise influence after Brexit. Whilst we are leaving the Europe Union, we are not leaving Europe and we will continue to co-operate with our long standing friends and neighbours in the interests of furthering peace and prosperity across the globe.
I think we can all drink to that, either with a pint of Kentish Ale or a glass of champagne, whatever takes your fancy.
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