France ‘furious’ over Australia’s submarine deal says expert
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The former Brexit negotiator also bemoaned a lack of trust in the UK after it teamed up with the United States to provide Australia with nuclear-powered vessels. As a result of the new military alliance, Canberra ripped up its contract to buy 12 French-built diesel-electric submarines. Responding to the snub, Mr Barnier said: “This is a diplomatic and industrial disaster.”
The Frenchman, who has announced himself as a centre-right challenger to President Macron in next year’s elections, said Paris’ attack on Australia and the US for keeping the pact secret was justified.
But Mr Barnier insisted the spat was “not enough to assess the reasons of this disaster”.
He added: “We can wonder if this contract, announced years ago, was accompanied by enough political and diplomatic support. We can ask ourselves that question.
“And as it has been said, there’s the matter of trust with Americans and British as well in a certain way. Australia is our ally. We are part of an alliance not to be treated this way.”
It has been estimated that the AUKUS military pact has cost France around £48 billion, and senior ministers have accused Downing Street from keeping it “hidden”.
Europe minister Clement Beaune today suggested the agreement would have ramifications for the British-French alliance.
He said that disagreements over Brexit and AUKUS highlighted difficulties in the relationship.
“We need to rebuild confidence, we need to discuss together – we are not in this context at the moment,” he said.
Mr Beaune accused No10 of not implementing the Brexit deals agreed on Northern Ireland and fishing rights.
“They are not well implemented … they are not fully respected,” he fumed
But he refused to engage in direct criticism of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Mr Beaune said: “It is not a matter about the prime minister personally. I will not address comments about the prime minister himself. It is about a relationship between two governments two allies, two close partners, that will remain.
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“But we see when we look at the Brexit agreements, that are not well implemented, that are not fully respected; we see it with the Aukus project, there were some hidden things. It’s not the best context to have trust between us but we will move on.”
He also voiced criticism of the UK that it was the “fifth wheel” in the AUKUS defence pact.
The minister, a close ally of President Macron, said: “The key responsibility was on Australia, breaking the contracts, and in the US, probably putting pressure, and the UK has chosen after we offered a couple of times, including in the Brexit negotiations, repeatedly to have discussions on how we can organise our security or defence cooperation … it has been refused consistently by the UK.
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“Whereas the UK has decided to go side by side with the US, I think, in a way which is, I said it clearly, kind of a junior partner … So far the UK has refused to engage on security … maybe it will change.”
And he brushed away suggestions that France had overreacted in the wake of the AUKUS announcement.
“We cannot pretend there is no problem,” he added.
Additional reporting from Maria Ortega
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