No sneakiness! Ben Wallace insists Boris submarine deal was not behind Frances back

Emmanuel Macron gets mocked on Australian TV

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Last week Boris Johnson stood alongside US President Joe Biden and Australian President Scott Morrison to unveil the tri-nation AUKUS deal. It will see Australia supplied with nuclear-powered submarines – and has outraged Emmanuel Macron because it led the country to renege on a £65bn deal to buy diesel-powered French submarines.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian branded it a “stab in the back” and constituted “unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners”.

In an interview with France 2 television, Mr Le Drian accused Australia and the US of “duplicity, disdain and lies” and said the recalling of France’s ambassadors “signifies the force of the crisis today”.

He said allies “don’t treat each other with such brutality, such unpredictability, a major partner like France … So there really is a crisis”.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly later postponed talks with Mr Wallace as the spat continues to snowball.

A defence source told the PA news agency that “the meeting is postponed, not cancelled” and highlighted the strength of the UK military relationship with “trusted allies” France, including operations in Mali and complex weapons development.

Seeking to downplay the scandal, the UK Defence Minister insisted that Australia had exercised its “right to choose” by forming a partnership with the UK and US.

Mr Wallace told MPs: “The United States and France are our closest allies.

“The United States is the cornerstone of Nato by far outspending and out-contributing than any other European nation on that security.

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“It has been the guarantor of European security for decades and we should not forget that.

“When it comes to France, I have an extremely close relationship with my French counterpart.

“I have met her only a month or two ago, I had dinner with her in Paris months before that. We speak regularly.

“Britain and France, on many issues, are joined at the hip, complex weapons, counter-terrorism, both west and east Africa issues, and indeed more recently in places like Iraq and Syria.

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“There is absolutely no intent here by the United Kingdom Government to slight, upset or drive a wedge between us and France.

“It may be that MPs would like to listen to the media but the fundamentals are that we have more in common than we have differing us, there was no sneakiness behind the back, it was fundamentally Australia’s right to choose a different capability and it did.”

A spokesman for the Franco-British Council said: “The defence conference planned for September 23 has been postponed to a later date.

“The Franco-British Council regularly brings together the defence community in France and the UK and we look forward to holding our rearranged conference when a new date has been agreed.”

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