Britain and the US struck a security pact with Australia to provide nuclear-powered submarines but China and France are among the countries that have slammed the move
Boris Johnson has offered France an olive branch after it reacted furiously to a UK-brokered submarine deal which saw them lose a £47bn contract.
The Prime Minister insisted the UK’s relationship with its closest neighbour was “absolutely vital” as he listed joint defence projects.
Britain and the US last week struck a security pact with Australia which includes the US providing nuclear-powered submarines, a show of strength aimed at China.
But the AUKUS deal sparked a diplomatic row with France as it meant Canberra cancelled a £47bn order with Paris to provide diesel-powered subs.
French armed services minister Florence Parly has reportedly pulled out of the talks with her UK counterpart which were due to take place in London this week.
France labelled Britain a “vassal” to the United States for its role in the deal but dismissed Britain as a “junior partner” in the trilateral relationship.
AFP via Getty Images)
A furious French President Emmanuel Macron recalled his country’s ambassadors to the US and America.
But French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it had opted not to recall it’s top diplomat in the UK because it was familiar with Britain’s “permanent opportunism”.
Europe minister Clement Beaune added: “We can see that this is a return into the American lap and a form of accepted vassalisation”.
Mr Johnson was asked whether he was indeed a ‘lap dog’ to US President Joe Biden on the plane to the United Nations New York.
He replied: “We are very, very proud of our relationship with France and it is of huge importance to this country.
“It is a very friendly relationship – and entente cordial – that goes back a century or more and it absolutely vital for us.
“Our love of France is ineradicable and what I would say is this AUKUS is not in any way meant to be zero sum,.
“It is not meant to be exclusionary, it is not something I don’t think anyone needs to worry about and particularly not our French friends.”
The PM cited a joint defence programme with France which simulates the testing of nuclear explosions.
“It’s called the Teutates, which I think is the Gaulish god of thunder, from my studies of Asterix. We don’t actually blow anything up,” he added.
“Anyway, so this is something that goes very, very deep; our love of France, our admiration of France is ineradicable.”
Mr Macron is not expected to be at the UN summit meaning Mr Johnson could avoid an embarrassing encounter.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly failed to deny reports the French minister had pulled out of talks in London.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Ms Parly had been due to meet in London and to address the two-day Franco-British Council, according to The Guardian.
Asked about the row, Mr Cleverly told BBC Breakfast: “Well, all international relationships go through ups and downs.
“The situation between Australia and France and the negotiations that they had entered into is for them. From the UK point of view, this is about protecting ourselves.
“It’s about providing stability and security across the globe, and it’s also about working more closely with some very, very long-standing defence partners.”
He said all relationships “go through periods of tension”, but he added: “The bottom line is, ultimately, the UK and France have many shared interests, I’m sure that will come to the fore.”
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