UK says relations with France strong despite sub deal anger
LONDON/AP — Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Britain, has said that Britain’s relationship to France is “ineradicable” despite outrage in Paris about a U.S.–Australia submarine deal.
The agreement that roiled relations between France’s major allies and France has forced the postponement of a meeting between Florence Parly, French Defense Minister, and Ben Wallace, her counterpart in Britain.
The two were due to meet this week and address a meeting organised by the Franco-British Council. Peter Ricketts (co-chairman of the council) told The Guardian that the meeting was “postponed .”
The submarine deal announced last week will see Australia cancel its contract to purchase diesel-electric French subs and instead acquire nuclear-powered vessels made by the U.S. Australia, the U.S. and Britain claim the deal strengthens their commitment to Indo-Pacific and is widely seen as a counter-attack to an assertive China.
The agreement seems to have blindsided the French government. Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister, called it a “stab to the back.” France also recalls its ambassadors from Washington DC and Canberra. This is a very unusual move by allies.
France didn’t recall its envoy from London. Clement Beaune, French Europe Minister, said that Britain was the third participant in the “AUSUK” deal and was a “junior partnership” of the U.S Johnson. He said U.K.-France relations are “very friendly” despite diplomatic turmoil.
“Our love for France is unassailable,” Johnson said to reporters while he was in New York at the U.N. General Assembly. “AUKUS isn’t meant to be zero sum, it’s certainly not exclusionary. It’s not something that anybody needs to worry about and particularly not our French friends.”
British officials have stressed the close military ties between the U.K. and France, including joint operations in Mali and Estonia.
U.K. Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said Monday that “all bilateral relationships go through periods of tension.”
“On a personal level, I have absolutely no doubt that, ultimately, our relationship with France will endure,” he told the BBC. “But this (submarine agreement) is about making certain that we have strong defense relationships with two very, very important defence partners.”