By JILL LAWLESS
LONDON (AP) — Britain will pay tens of millions of dollars toward border security in France and support French military missions as part of moves to bind the countries closer together after Brexit.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday in a bilateral summit intended to strengthen security and intelligence ties between the neighboring nations, and to build goodwill as Britain negotiates its EU exit.
Britain wants the meeting, at the Sandhurst military academy near London, to signal that the relationship won’t be weakened once the U.K. leaves the European Union in 2019.
So May is offering funds to ease French annoyance over a 2003 deal that placed British border controls in Calais, on the French side of the English Channel. The town has become a magnet for migrants hoping to reach Britain, and the accord puts the burden of blocking their entry to the U.K. on France.
Britain is agreeing to pay $62 million for security cameras and other measures in Calais and nearby English Channel ports. France also wants Britain to take in more migrants from Calais, especially unaccompanied children.
The U.K. also says it will send three Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters and dozens of personnel to join France’s military mission against Islamic militants in Africa’s Sahel region. France has led efforts to fight al-Qaida and IS-linked jihadi groups in the vast region south of the Sahara desert.
The leaders of the five main U.K. and French spy agencies are also meeting for the first time Thursday, as the two countries seek to increase intelligence-sharing. France and Britain have both faced a string of violent attacks by extremists inspired or directed by the Islamic State group.
May said the U.K.-French 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.”
In a boost to Macron, Britain is throwing its backing behind the European Intervention Initiative, a multinational European military force that the French president has proposed. He also wants a common European defense budget and security doctrine.
The plan is in its early stages, but British officials don’t see it as an “EU army,” an idea on which the U.K. has long been cool.
In return, France will send troops to join a U.K.-led NATO battle group in Estonia in 2019, aimed at countering an increasingly assertive Russia.
Macron, on his first visit to the U.K. since winning the presidency in May 2017, also bears news that France will loan Britain the Bayeux Tapestry, an 11th-century panorama depicting the Norman conquest of England.
The medieval masterpiece depicts a key moment in British history – one with particular resonance as Britain prepares to leave the EU.
Many in Britain welcomed news of the loan, but the country’s euroskeptic tabloids weren’t impressed. “Le Stitch-up,” said the Daily Mail, depicting the tapestry as a poor exchange for the more than 44 million pounds Britain has agreed to hand over.