French President meets Boris Johnson but keeps two-metre distance

18 June 2020, 14:23

Mr Johnson and Mr Macron met at Downing Street on Thursday
Mr Johnson and Mr Macron met at Downing Street on Thursday. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron have met at Downing Street for talks, but maintained two-metre social distancing rules.

The French President is visiting London to commemorate the 80th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle's famous wartime broadcast.

The pair greeted each other outside No 10 but were unable to shake hands because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Macron is used to keeping just one-metre distance, the minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation.

The two are holding bilateral talks to discuss the coronavirus crisis and other issues, with the Prime Minister indicating he would raise travel between the UK and France at the meeting.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall greet French president Emmanuel Macron with a namaste gesture at Clarence House
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall greet French president Emmanuel Macron with a namaste gesture at Clarence House. Picture: PA

Earlier, Mr Macron arrived to a ceremony of pomp and pageantry as he was welcomed to the UK by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in a socially-distanced greeting.

The trio greeted each other at the Duke and Duchess’ official London home, Clarence House, by doing a namaste gesture while remaining two metres apart.

Later, Mr Macron awarded London the Legion D'Honneur to commemorate the city’s help during World War Two.

The French president arrived in London after attending events in his homeland to commemorate De Gaulle's rallying cry on the BBC, made in June 1940, when he urged the people of France to resist the Nazi occupation.

French President Emmanuel Macron lays a wreath at the foot of the statue of Charles de Gaulle
French President Emmanuel Macron lays a wreath at the foot of the statue of Charles de Gaulle. Picture: PA

Lined up outside Clarence House was a ceremonial guard of honour from Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards joined by the Band of the Coldstream Guards - who all stood at least two metres apart.

After the national anthems of France and the UK were played Guard Commander, Major Piers Gambarini, invited Mr Macron to inspect the servicemen and he was accompanied by Charles, with the two men sheltered under umbrellas as the rain which had deluged London for much of the day continued to fall.

France's leader walked past the servicemen who when not performing ceremonial duties are fighting soldiers.

The two men later posed for an official photograph before holding talks in Clarence House.

The Prince of Wales and Mr Macron speaking at a ceremony awarding London the Legion D'Honneur
The Prince of Wales and Mr Macron speaking at a ceremony awarding London the Legion D'Honneur. Picture: PA

Later, Charles and Camilla and the president travelled the short distance from Clarence House to the Mall, where Mr Macron laid a wreath at the King George VI and the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother statues.

Charles' grandfather George VI reigned during the Second World War and after Buckingham Palace was bombed on September 13 1940, the Queen Mother said she felt she could "look the East End in the face".

The wartime leader of the Free French said: "I call upon all French servicemen of the land, sea, and air forces; I call upon French engineers and skilled armaments workers who are on British soil, or have the means of getting here, to come and join me."

Pipe Major Stephen Bennett of the Scots Guards played the pipes as he led the group up a series of steps to Carlton Gardens and on to a nearby statue erected in honour of General de Gaulle.

French president Emmanuel Macron lands at RAF Northolt
French president Emmanuel Macron lands at RAF Northolt. Picture: PA

Major Johanna Maljette read the General's famous address after the prince and Mr Macron had left floral tributes to the former French president, laying wreaths at the statue.

During his address, a pivotal moment in his country's history, he added: "I call upon all Frenchmen who want to remain free to listen to my voice and follow me."

De Gaulle and the Free French made their wartime base in nearby Carlton Gardens and from the building began to build up their forces.

The meeting took place at Clarence House
The meeting took place at Clarence House. Picture: PA

The president arrived in his official plane - a Dassault Falcon 7X - decorated in the national colours of France at RAF Northolt in west London.

Mr Johnson has said four surviving French resistance fighters "Compagnons" of the Order of Liberation - Edgard Tupet-Thome, 100, Daniel Bouyjou-Cordier, 99, Hubert Germain, 99, and Pierre Simonet, 98 - will receive honorary MBEs in tribute to their "courage and sacrifice in defending us and the whole world from fascism".

The awards will be presented at a ceremony in France in the coming months.

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