French Ambassador to the UK visits Leeds

Mme Sylvie Bermann spoke about the relationship between France and the UK.

Mme Sylvie Bermann and French

L-R: Karima Gaci (Teaching Fellow in French), Catherine Kaiserman (Senior Teaching Fellow), Richard Hibbitt (Director of French), Mme Sylvie Bermann (French Ambassador to the UK), Daniel Charity (Level 3 student - Law with French), Megan Crossley (Level 3 student - French).

On Thursday 27 April, students of French at the University of Leeds had the honour of attending a talk from Sylvie Bermann, the French Ambassador to the UK. Mme Bermann spoke eloquently about the relationship between our two countries, a subject which has taken on increasing importance since Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

The issue of the UK’s future relationship with France is close to the hearts of many language students, especially those who have taken the opportunity to study or work abroad. Mme Bermann cited this as one of Brexit’s many uncertainties, but emphasised the importance of British and French students and workers retaining the opportunity to live and work in each other’s countries.

As the voice and the face of the French government in the UK, Mme Bermann is uniquely placed to offer an insight into the French negotiating stance on Brexit. She made it clear that while France regrets the UK’s decision to leave the EU and is not seeking to punish the UK, the French priority is to strengthen the EU as a whole. The UK, meanwhile, wants to ensure the ‘best deal possible’; Mme Bermann said that post-Brexit Britain could not have a better status than it enjoys as a member of the EU.

After the lecture, we had the opportunity to speak personally to Mme Bermann and to gain an insight into the working life of an ambassador. We learnt that no two days are the same in this role: the huge variety of tasks ranged from meeting MPs and attending Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament, to visiting Hinkley Point, a nuclear power station being financed by EDF, the French state electricity provider. These are just a few aspects of the varied and fascinating job of an ambassador; yet whoever Mme Bermann meets, the subject of debate is the same - Brexit.

This was a valuable opportunity to see how relations between the UK and France are conducted on a day-to-day basis, and it is arguably more important than ever that we understand the interests of our respective countries after the UK’s “saut dans l’inconnu” in leaving the European Union. We are very grateful to the Ambassador for taking the time out of her busy schedule to come and talk to us at Leeds.

 Written by Megan Crossley and Danny Charity