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Lionel Laurent

Macron-Sunak Reset Tilts Post-Brexit Balance of Power

Two frenemies try to mend ties amid a resurgent Germany, a dominant US and a bellicose Russia.

Best of frenemies.

Best of frenemies.

Photographer: Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images 

The art of the balance of power — building alliances to ensure no single power becomes too dominant — was born on the European continent but perfected by the British over hundreds of years as divide and rule, as any viewer of the TV show “ Yes, Minister” will know. Yet it’s also been responsible for some of the high points of Franco-British relations for more than a century, such as the 1904 “Entente Cordiale” that took the UK out of a period of “splendid isolation” and soothed French fears over a united Germany.

Similar forces are at work today as two Brexit frenemies — France’s Emmanuel Macron and the UK’s Rishi Sunak — attempt to unthaw ice-cold relations amid a resurgent Germany, a dominant US, a bellicose Russia and a global institutional framework that’s showing cracks from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization. This week’s Franco-British summit will be the first of its kind since 2018, and there’s desire on both sides for what former ambassador Sylvie Bermann calls an encouraging “reset” between two very similar countries — but also a few risks.