Data published by Eurostat showed that in the first four months of the year, EU imports from the UK dropped by 27.1 percent compared with the same period last year. It also showed Russia has overtaken the UK in sales to EU nations for the first time as the amount of goods imported from Russia soared 12.4 percent from £32.42billion (€37.7billion) last year to £36.55billion (€42.5billion) this year. It comes after Mr Macron, who has already come under fire for “trying to cause the maximum inconvenience” for Brexit Britain, was tipped to be the driving force between increased trade between Brussels and Moscow.
France has been at the vanguard of this drive and Mr Macron has regularly sold himself as a sympathetic voice to the Kremlin.
In 2019, he put forward the idea of engaging in a strategic dialogue with Russia as a necessary step to create an “architecture of trust and security”.
It was the first major step towards a thawing of relations after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Juliette Faure, from the Paris Institute of Political Studies, says Mr Macron’s “new policy” with Russia is “built on a steadily strengthening bilateral relationship”.
She stated in May: “Macron has met regularly with his Russian counterpart – just a few weeks after his election, he hosted a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Versailles, where the two heads of state announced the launch of the ‘Trianon dialogue’ to foster cooperation between civil societies.
“A year later, Macron participated in the St Petersburg Economic Forum and in 2019, a Macron-Putin summit was held at the French President’s retreat in Bregancon, just a few days prior to the G7 meeting in Biarritz.”
Ms Faure said Mr Macron’s “shared interest with Russia” stems from his ambitious interests in “issues such as Arctic exploration and outer space technology”.
Given he has been accused of seeking to “inconvenience” the UK in its post-Brexit world, these ambitions would likely bypass London’s wishes.
She added: “Bilateral consultations, therefore, are aimed to establish communication channels, explore the potential for cooperation and set up deconfliction measures in case of confrontation.”
And Ms Faure, who is currently a visiting fellow at Harvard, said “economic exchanges” are a “major pillar” of this new relationship going forward.
She added: “While the French-Russian trade balance had decreased by about a third between 2013 and 2017, Russian exports to France increased by more than 25 percent between 2017 and 2018.
“The reinvigoration of dialogue with Russia in the summer of 2019 was paired with the announcement by French oil and gas company Total of the launch of Arctic project, the second major programme of direct investment in Russian liquified natural gas.
“Total’s projects significantly contributed to positioning France as the second-largest source of foreign direct investments in Russia, on equal footing with China, and just behind Germany.
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“In 2020, France became Russia’s fifth top trading partner for imports, up two spots from its position in 2010.”
Mr Putin is currently attending a meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva.
Pictured sitting down inside the building, Mr Biden was heard telling Mr Putin via his translator that it was “always better to meet face-to-face”.
Both have said they hope their talks can lead to a more stable relationship, but they remain at odds over numerous issues.
It comes after Mr Biden also met with Mr Macron at the G7 summit in Cornwall last weekend.