Event report

Franco-British Reception at Parliament

On Tuesday 1st March, we were pleased to host our Patron & Corporate members for a Franco-British Reception at Parliament.

An astoundingly international crowd of MPs, Lords, and various company representatives gathered for the French Chamber of Commerce’s latest evening of networking at Westminster

In a context of tense international relations and an escalating conflict on Europe’s borders, it felt particularly heart-warming to be among a multicultural crowd in the Palace of Westminster.

Bringing together members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, as well as various representatives from French and British businesses, the French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain held its latest event at the Houses of Parliament on March 1.
Addressing a warm welcome from the audience, the Rt Hon. James Cleverly MP, Minister for Europe and North America, spoke of his genuine pleasure to be present on the evening.

“I'm incredibly pleased to host you here in the Houses of Parliament, in the Palace of Westminster,” he said. “It is so lovely to actually be together in a room again.”  

Referring to a large portrait of Napoleon III at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, he underlined the long-standing nature of the strong relationship that has been linking France and the UK for centuries. “Whenever a third party comes along to cause trouble, we are bound together, shoulder to shoulder,” he said.

This is particularly crucial at a time where Europe is witnessing something it had hoped, prayed and believed would never happen again. “Unsurprisingly, once again, the UK and France, and other European friends and partners, have pulled more closely and tightly together than could have possibly been predicted,” Cleverly added. “There is a real unity, it is palpable, and it appears that the attempts to fracture the relationships in Europe have backfired spectacularly.”

France and the UK have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for many decades, including in business. Annual exports from the UK to France exceed £31 billion in value, while imports from France currently stand at more than £34 billion a year.

This fruitful trading relationship is also mirrored in many other areas.

“I would like to stress how important we, in the House of Commons and the all-party parliamentary group, regard our relationship both with the French Chamber, the Franco-British Society, and all the other organisations which make such a difference to our ties with France,” said Sir Bob Neill, MP and President of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for France.

Sir Bob echoed the fact that the UK-France friendship is particularly meaningful at a time when Europe’s borders and values are being challenged.

“Since the time of Napoleon III, we and France have always been on the same side when it comes to the big issues,” he recalled. “We have fought together when we had to, and we have worked together in peace. Our personal, national and cultural links are very strong.”

But business links between the two nations are crucial too, and in that respect, the work of the French Chamber is critical.

“We must continue to work together to build those very strong synergies where we can reinforce each other's economies, and where we can also take forward our joint commitment to democracy, to liberal progressive politics and to freedom, standing up for the values which for the first time are threatened in a way none of us thought they could,” Sir Neill said. The Entente Cordiale, he added, is more important now than it has ever been.

The event, reminded French Chamber president Fabienne Viala, had been in the making for two years. It was also a testimony to the deepening partnership between the Chamber and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for France, aiming to give French businesses the opportunity to meet members of both Houses.

Speaking on behalf of EDF, which sponsored the event, Imtech CEO Gautier Jacob closed the evening’s address by saying: “The Franco-British relationship is crucial for us to be able to invest in the UK at scale. We have a strong history of trading and doing business together, especially within the energy sector. Maintaining this relationship is now even more important, as we both face the same challenges raised by the Ukraine conflict, continue to recover from the pandemic, navigate the global climate emergency, and adapt to new trading arrangements post-Brexit.”

An article by Alice Tchernookova from FrancaisaLondres.com

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