Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron British PM, French President to talk terrorism and migration at UK summit

Britain is set to send Royal Air Force helicopters to bolster a key French counter-terrorism operation in Mali, in a package of measures to be agreed at a bilateral summit near London on Thursday.

The commitment will come as Prime Minister Theresa May meets French President Emmanuel Macron at an army base near the British capital, with immigration and global aid also on their agenda.

The issue of Brexit is not scheduled for formal discussion but will likely be touched upon in talks on other topics, a British government spokesman said.

London is eager to develop stronger bilateral ties with nations on the continent as Britain prepares to leave the European Union in March 2019.

“Today’s 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,” May said in a statement ahead of the summit.

“Our friendship has always gone far beyond defence and security and the scope of today’s discussions represents its broad and unique nature,” she added.

May is due to announce the deployment of three RAF Chinook helicopters to provide logistic support to French troops tackling Islamist terrorism in Africa’s Sahel region.

The mission is focused on Mali, where the UN, EU and African Union all have military operations countering terrorism and illegal trade in people, drugs, weapons and wildlife.

May will also discuss with the French president their joint crackdown on online extremism “to ensure that the internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists and criminals,” according to the government spokesman.

Meanwhile Macron, in a piece of diplomatic theatre on his first official trip across the Channel, is expected to confirm that France will loan Britain the Bayeux Tapestry, the famed embroidery recounting the 1066 Norman conquest.

The leaders will address the sensitive issue of immigration, with border arrangements in northern France likely to be scrutinised.

The two countries currently abide by the 15-year-old Treaty of Le Touquet, which permits immigration checks within each other’s borders.

May is set to agree to welcome more young refugees stuck in France and review financial aid.

“We have in the past contributed to security and if there are requests for further help we would look at those,” said the spokesman.

Hundreds of people continue to camp out in the northern French town of Calais, hoping to stow away on trucks heading to Britain, a destination seen as an El Dorado by some migrants from Afghanistan and East Africa.

Britain is also expected to allocate £50 million (56 million euros, $69 million) of additional aid for those affected by epidemics, natural disasters and conflict across west Africa.