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17 January 2018

All the gifts Britain should give France in exchange for the Bayeux tapestry

A few suggestions.

By Pauline Bock

Réjouissez-vous, mes amis! The great and generous Emmanuel Macron, president of France, First of His Name, the Unequalled, Jupiter, Breaker of Traditional Politics and Father of Reforms, has announced France will lend the Bayeux Tapestry to Britain in an attempt to warm up his relationship with Theresa May before meeting with her at Sandhurst on Thursday.

This is absolutely not a clever diversion from the fact that their meeting will focus on immigration, with potentially awkward questions being raised by the British media about the awful situation in Calais.

This French person is struggling to understand why British people would celebrate with such joy the return, after 950 years in France, of an old artefact telling the story of how they miserably lost a battle against the Normans – but then again, Brexit Britain is full of surprises.

Macron is making a diplomatic habit of bringing precious, extravagant presents to countries he visits. But what if the Brits returned the favour? Here are a few French things the UK could give back.

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone was key in deciphering hieroglyphic scripts, and it’s the Frenchman Jean-François Champollion who cracked the code in 1822. The stone was found by a French soldier during Napoléon’s Egypt campaign and subsequently taken by the Brits when they defeated French troops in Egypt in 1801. As suggested by Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat on Radio 4’s Today programme, it may be time the stone leaves the British Museum for France (or, you know, actual Egypt).

The Manets and Monets of the National Gallery

The pros: you’ll never confuse these two again. The cons: the National Gallery is going to look a bit empty.

The Trafalgar Square lions

Nelson’s column’s four lions were forged from the bronze of French cannons from ships captured at the battle of Trafalgar.

Les Misérables, the musical

Look what you’ve done with Hugo’s masterpiece. Just give it back.

Tony Blair

The original Macron.

The City’s French bankers and entrepreneurs

Macron wants them back anyway.

The concept of cheese

The point is *not* to make 758 different cheeses and call them all “cheddar”. And cheese strings?? What even is that? Britain, your cheese license is revoked. Make chutneys, we’ll make the cheeses – that’s a nice trade deal right there.

The succession to the British throne

King of France Louis VIII invaded southern England and was proclaimed King of England by rebellious English barons in 1216. For the centuries that followed, France and England were a mess of wars, blurred borders and entwined royal genealogies. So, technically… France must have some claim to the throne. But please, please no one tell Macron.

The rights enjoyed by French citizens, and all other Europeans, in the UK until 24 June 2016

Now that would be generous.