Emmanuel Macron pulled what might be called “le fast one”. The French president eschewed such niceties as social distancing to grab himself some “moi” time with the most powerful person in the world, and therefore the world leader at the G7 summit who really mattered.
At the end of yesterday’s photo opportunity (known quaintly as the “family” photo) in which the G7 leaders posed for a group picture with the ocean as a backdrop, Mr Macron deliberately delayed his stage left exit to allow Joe Biden to catch him up on the plastic boardwalk.
Mr Macron then took hold of the US president and, putting a right arm across his back, gently guided the older man off the beach at Carbis Bay, working his charm as they went. The gently crashing waves suggested a French-American bromance that Downing Street might have wished to avoid in the most choreographed of summit meetings
It was a manoeuvre to make even the most ambitious politician proud. Boris Johnson may or may not have been left fuming as his French rival muscled in while the PM’s back was turned.
In the moments before “le hug”, Mr Johnson had stood centre stage, offering Mr Biden the politest of Covid-secure elbow bumps. But after the photographs had been taken, Angela Merkel walked off with Mr Johnson, leaving Mr Biden to fall prey to his French counterpart. On Twitter, the French president was accused of trying to “monopolise” Mr Biden.
Day one of the G7 summit had started so well. Kate appeared to love Jill and Carrie seemed to really quite like Justin. The world’s eyes were turned yesterday on a corner of Cornwall to witness the world’s most powerful men and women mixing small talk with the big issues of the day, like fighting a global pandemic and whether anyone fancied a dip in the ocean.
Leaders of the G7 pose for a group photo on overlooking the beach at the Carbis Bay Hotel
Credit: Patrick Semansky
Emmanuel Macron lies in wait for the approaching US president
The festivities (sorry, serious talks) kicked off with the curtain raiser that was the Duchess of Cambridge and Dr Jill Biden inexplicably feeding carrots to rabbits at Connor Downs Academy, a primary school close to Carbis Bay, the G7’s epicentre.
The future Queen and current First Lady were introduced to a classroom full of four and five year-olds whose response was, at first at least, to largely say nothing. “They’re scared to death,” commented Dr Biden, before the Duchess of Cambridge remarked: “It’s the quietest class I’ve ever been to.”
The couple advanced to the rabbit enclosure outside, a straightforward manoeuvre hampered only by Dr Biden’s towering heels that struggled to cope with the soft going while clutching on to a silver dish containing a lot of carrots. “I’m sinking into the ground,” she laughed, the joke appreciated by a grinning Duchess.
Carrots were fed to the rescue rabbits Storm, Wampa, and Cindy before a return indoors to discuss early childhood education, a topic of interest shared by both women. Dr Biden later tweeted from her official First Lady account: “@Kensington Royal, we could have kept going for hours! Thank you for having me today to talk about an issue we both care deeply about.”
The Duchess of Cambridge and US First Lady Jill Biden, carrying carrots for the school rabbits, during a visit to Connor Downs Academy in Hayle
Credit: Aaron Chown
About an hour later and back at Carbis Bay, Boris and Carrie Johnson, happily married for the last 13 days, stood on a plastic boardwalk with the ocean as a backdrop while the world leaders and those that brought their partners were introduced with an elbow bump and a photo opportunity. “Elbows!” shouted Mr Johnson as the world leaders traipsed by, reminding them not to shake his hand.
Mrs Johnson, 33, dressed in a ‘hot pink’ dress costing £1,395 from the designer label Roksanda but which she rented for the day at a cost of £100, beamed as Justin Trudeau, 49, widely regarded as the world’s best looking prime minister, strode across the sand. Alone. His wife Sophie, according to a Canadian source, had stayed at home to look after the children and wanted to avoid the mandatory quarantine that her husband will be required to undertake on his return.
Mr Trudeau briefly wore a mask, removing it to reveal a distinguished goatee beard. Mrs Johnson played with her hair and giggled. On Twitter one wag noted: “3/1 Carrie runs off with Trudeau before the weekend’s out…” but in truth it was hardly the frisson when Mr Trudeau kissed Melania Trump in public in 2019 as Donald Trump shot them daggers. It’s also fair to say that Angela Merkel, who was next up on the boardwalk with her husband Joachim Sauer didn’t quite receive the same intensity of Carrie smile.
Last up came Joe and Jill Biden. The US President urged the leaders to take a dip. “Everyone in the water,” ordered the world’s most powerful man. Mr Johnson insisted he had already been for a swim. Sources later insisted he had genuinely been going for a daily dip.
Carrie Johnson and Justin Trudeau land on a modern way to greet one another
Boris and Carrie Johnson catch sight of Mr Trudeau's goatee beard
Credit: Leon Neal
Dr Biden said: “I feel like we are at a wedding” as she was introduced down the line, while later Mr Johnson admitted it was like “walking down the aisle”, presumably recalling his marriage ceremony from the end of last month rather than his previous two.
There was no sign of any tension when Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte were introduced despite reports of disquiet from the French president over the post-Brexit border arrangements and the Northern Ireland protocol. Mr Macron grinned and Mr Johnson declared “Emmanuel”, seizing on his first name in a show of bonhomie.
Last night, it was the turn of the royal family to host the guests, as the Prince of Wales held a reception for G7 leaders and chief executives to discuss the climate emergency, warning that if the world could mobilise to overcome a global pandemic, it could do so to save the planet.
Minutes after Mr Johnson and Mr Macron’s friendly interaction came the group photo and that embrace. It might have made the dinner, held last night at the Eden Project, more awkward, or at least just “un peu”.