Emmanuel Macron grinned and fist-bumped Boris Johnson today as the pair put a brave face on a raging row over fisheries.
The French President chuckled and ushered Mr Johnson to his place as he arrived for a ‘family photo’ with other leaders at the G20 summit in Rome.
However, the show of friendship comes amid escalating tension between the UK and France over access to fishing waters, with the Government accusing Paris of breaking international law.
In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Mr Johnson warned that the UK could trigger the dispute mechanism in the post-Brexit trade agreement as soon as next week.
But the chief of Calais port cautioned that Britain faces ‘disaster’ if Mr Macron follows through on a threat to block British trawlers from French ports.
Paris has so far threatened to increase checks on British boats, to initiate a ‘go-slow’ strategy with Calais customs arrangements, stop UK fishing vessels from landing in French ports and to increase tariffs on energy bills in Jersey.
They are demanding that Britain grants more licenses to French fishermen to access British waters – and have tried to rope in the EU to the battle. Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen is also at the summit this weekend.
Asked about the situation this morning, Mr Johnson said: ‘We are very keen to work with our friends and partners on all these issues. If another European country wants to break the TCA – the Trade and Co-operation agreement – then obviously we will have to take steps to protect UK interests.
‘If there is a breach of the treaty or we think there is a breach of the treaty then we will do what is necessary to protect British interests.’
Mr Johnson and Mr Macron are holding talks about the Iran nuclear programme along with Joe Biden and Angela Merkel in Rome this afternoon – and will meet one-on-one at the summit tomorrow.
France’s ambassador to London Catherine Colonna was hauled in by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to face questioning and ‘explain the disappointing and disproportionate threats made against the UK and Channel Islands’.
Two Royal Navy patrol vessels were said to be on a state of ‘high readiness’ in case of further fallout, but there was no immediate sign they would be required.
Ahead of the start of the climate conference on Monday, the Prime Minister enjoyed a spot of sightseeing in the Italian capital city, walking the iconic Spanish Steps with his pregnant wife Carrie last night followed by a solo tour around the Colosseum early this morning.
Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron put on a show as G20 leaders posed for their family photo at a Rome summit today
Emmanuel Macron and Mr Johnson fist bumped despite gearing up for a potential showdown over fisheries
Mr Johnson took up position just behind Mr Macron and next to EU commission chief Ursula Von Der Leyen
Mr Johnson also joked around with US president Joe Biden at the summit in Rome this afternoon
Mr Biden and Mr Johnson appeared to have dropped something at one point during their chat
Mr Johnson walks the Spanish Steps with his wife Carrie ahead of the G20 summit
Mrs Johnson is pictured arriving for the first day of the G20 summit, as spouses of the world leaders headed inside
G20 state leaders pose during a photograph session at the start of the G20 summit in Rome
The Prime Minister took off his mask as he lined up for a photoshoot with the other world leaders
As the sun rose over Italy this morning the Prime Minister was offered a tour of the Colosseum, where gladiators fought in ancient Rome
Briefing reporters in Rome this afternoon, the PM’s spokesman said Mr Johnson regarded Mr Macron as a ‘friend’.
The spokesman said of France’s threats: ‘We don’t think those are appropriate, we are acting well within the legal boundaries set by the TCA and we will continue to do so.’
He added: ‘Should France proceed with the threats they have set out we will act in a proportionate and calibrated manner.’
The spokesman said he did not the spat with France to ‘distract’ from the climate change issue and the ‘whole world’ should be focused on solutions at COP.
‘As the PM said, we very much feel we have bigger fish to fry,’ he said.
On the idea that the UK should be punished for Brexit, the spokesman said: ‘Brexit was a decision taken by the British people and enacted by the government.’
The spokesman stressed that licences were being granted to French ships. ‘It is simply a case that if boats are able to provide historical data.. they will be granted a licence.’
Asked about the awkward fist-bump with Mr Macron, he said: ‘He considers President Macron a friend and obviously France as an enduring ally.’
Mr Johnson warned world leaders ‘the future of civilisation is at stake’ and compared climate change to the fall of the Roman Empire as he arrived in Rome for the G20 summit.
In his apocalyptic vision of the future, which comes as he desperately tries to build momentum ahead of the COP26 summit next week, Mr Johnson claimed society could return to the dark ages with ‘terrifying’ speed.
The PM delivered an extraordinary warning that generations to come could slump into illiteracy – and even suggested cows could get smaller.
He argued that after the collapse of Rome, civilisation even lost the ability to draw properly – saying ‘our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren’ could face food and water shortages.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned G20 leaders Friday to show ‘more ambition and more action’ and overcome mistrust in order to advance climate goals.
‘We are still on time to put things on track, and I think the G20 meeting is the opportunity to do that,’ Guterres said.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi met leaders as they arrived in the futuristic convention centre known as the ‘Nuvola’ (cloud) in EUR, a southern Rome district built by Benito Mussolini to glorify his fascist regime.
US President Joe Biden flew in on Friday, hoping to turn a page from the tumultuous Trump years and show that American leadership on the world stage is restored.
Yet the Democrat faces a credibility test as his own signature climate policy – part of a sweeping economic package – is held up amid infighting within his party in Congress.
He met Friday with Pope Francis and then French counterpart Macron, where he admitted Washington had been ‘clumsy’ in handling of a submarine deal with Australia and Britain that left Paris out in the cold.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping are absent from Rome, attending only by video link, but the others are taking advantage of the first in-person G20 for more than two years to hold a flurry of bilaterals.
Biden will meet Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Mr Johnson later Saturday for talks on Iran, after Tehran said it would resume discussions with world powers next month on reviving the 2015 nuclear accord.
Security is tight in Rome following violent protests earlier this month over the extension of Italy’s coronavirus pass to workplaces, and a Fridays for Future climate march is expected in the city later in the day.
Draghi has called for a ‘G20 commitment on the need to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees’ above pre-industrial levels, the most ambitious target outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi greets Mr Johnson as he arrives for the G20 leaders summit
The Prime Minister visited the Colosseum this morning, after yesterday offering an apocalyptic vision of the future
Mr and Mrs Johnson appeared in high spirits ahead of what is likely to be a stressful week for the Prime Minister
At one point, Mrs Johnson knelt down on the steps while her husband looked around. Mr Johnson yesterday argued that after the collapse of Rome, civilisation even lost the ability to draw properly – saying ‘our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren’ could face food and water shortages
Mr Johnson – the host of the UN climate summit next week – said neither the G20 nor the COP26 meetings could stop global warming, and ‘the most we can hope to do is slow the increase’
A large crowd of students holding homemade banners descended on the venue for the G20 summit in Rome on Saturday
One banner called for the ‘future’ during a demonstration in Rome against the precariousness of education in Italy
One climate activist was dragged away from police officers as they blocked traffic in front of the Italian Ministry of the Ecological Transition
Mr Johnson – the host of the UN climate summit next week – said neither the G20 nor the COP26 meetings could stop global warming, and ‘the most we can hope to do is slow the increase’.
Complicating the task for the G20 will be disparities between top world powers.
China, the world’s biggest polluter and responsible for more than a quarter of all carbon emissions, has been accused of sidestepping calls to stop building new coal-fired power plants.
A new plan submitted by Beijing to the UN ahead of COP26 fell short of environmentalists’ expectations, with a target date of 2060 to reach carbon neutrality.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has steadfastly demanded that his country be paid for protecting its share of the Amazon.
The world’s biggest rainforest is seen as a vital resource to combat climate change for its ability to absorb fossil fuel emissions.
Mr Johnson’s Roman Empire comments came amid fears that the Glasgow gathering could end up as a damp squib. China’s premier Xi has confirmed that he will not attend the event in person, although he will make a speech by video link.
Meanwhile, Putin is also shunning the summit along with Bolsanaro.
Speaking to reporters en route to the G20, Mr Johnson said: ‘Humanity as a whole, at half time is about 5-1 down.
‘We have got a long way to go but we can do it. We have the ability to equalise, to save the position, to come back but it will take a huge amount of effort.’
In a long description of the tragedy of the Roman Empire, Mr Johnson said ‘things can go backwards as well as forwards’.
‘Unless we get this right in tackling climate change we could see our civilisation, our world, also go backwards and we could consign future generations to a life that is far less agreeable than our own.’
The couple, who are expecting their second child together, walked the Spanish Steps ahead of the start of the G20 summit today
Mr Johnson yesterday delivered an extraordinary warning that generations to come could slump into illiteracy – and even suggested cows could get smaller
Mr and Mrs Johnson held hands as they walked down the Spanish Steps accompanied by an entourage
The comments came amid fears that the Glasgow gathering could end up as a damp squib
In a long description of the tragedy of the Roman Empire, Mr Johnson yesterday said ‘things can go backwards as well as forwards’
Boris made the comments as he arrived in the Eternal City for a G20 summit where he is desperately trying to ratchet up support for a breakthrough agreement to be made at COP26
The Prime Minister is said to have become much more environmentally conscious since he met his wife Carrie (pictured)
COP26 begins in Glasgow on Sunday and will look to build on agreements made at the Paris climate summit in 2015 where nations agreed to try to keep global heating to below 1.5C
The Prime Minister’s comments come at a time where some have claimed that the absence of China and Russia’s premiers will make COP26 a damp squid
He went on: ‘We could consign our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren to a life in which there are not only huge movements of populations and huge migrations, but also shortages of food, shortages of water, of conflict caused by climate change and there is absolutely no question that this is a reality that we must face.’
Mr Johnson said after Roman civilisation humanity became ‘far less literate’.
‘Look at evidence of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire if you doubt what I say, when Rome fell humanity became far less literate overall, people lost the ability to read and write, they lost the ability to draw properly, they lost the ability to build in the way the Romans did.’
He said: ‘Things can go backwards and they can go backwards at a really terrifying speed.’
COP26 begins on Sunday at Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC) and will welcome 30,000 delegates, 10,000 police and as many as 200,000 protesters for the 13-day conference.
Britain was this week preparing to retaliate after a UK trawler – the Cornelis Gert Jan (pictured right in in Le Havre, France, October 28, 2021) – was detained by France amid fears the fishing row could spark a full-blown trade war
Pictured: French gendarmes aboard the Cornelis-Gert Jan scallop boat which has been impounded by the French Gendarmerie Maritime for illegally fishing in the Bay of the Seine in french waters
In a dramatic intensification of the row over post-Brexit fishing rights this week, the Cornelis Gert Jan was ordered to divert to Le Havre after French authorities said it did not have a licence.
The trawler’s boss claimed his vessel was being used as a ‘pawn’ in the dispute and blasted the ‘politically motivated’ French. Its officials also fined a second vessel.
French ministers warned they will block British boats from some French ports and tighten checks on vessels travelling between France and the UK if the issue of post-Brexit fishing licenses is not resolved by Tuesday (November 2) – as well as threatening the electricity supply to the Channel Islands.
Ministers on Thursday were reportedly presented with retaliatory options should Paris press ahead with its threat next week, with one such option including further restricting French fishing access to UK waters.
Another potential move on the table in the ‘options paper’, presented to a Cabinet sub-committee chaired by Lord Frost, is the stepping up of checks on French vessels landing in UK ports, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Confronting Macron at the G20 meeting and dispatching the UK’s ambassador in Paris are also reportedly being considered – although Government sources told the newspaper there was no scheduled meeting with Macron in Italy and retaliatory measures would depend on France’s actions.
Environment minister George Eustice warned of retaliatory measures on Thursay, saying that if France went ahead with its threats, ‘Two can play at that game and we reserve the ability to respond in a proportionate way.’
The Cornelis and its eight crewmen languished in port, with the crew being told to stay on board. As of Thursday night, there was no indication when it would be allowed to leave.
With its blue hull, white bridge and red winches it has a somewhat ironic French tricolour appearance.
Andrew Brown, director of the boat’s owners, MacDuff Shellfish, told the Daily Mail the French were ‘exploiting’ supposed confusion over post-Brexit paperwork.