French ambassadorial recall discussed by Mark Urban
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The French President was reportedly incandescent with rage after Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison reneged on a £65billion deal with France to supply it with diesel-powered subs. Mr Morrison stood alongside Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden to unveil a new trilateral security partnership called AUKUS on Wednesday.
It will see America provide Australia with nuclear-powered subs – giving it information that had only previously been shared with the UK.
It was widely seen as an effort to counter China’s growing influence and increasingly aggressive behaviour in the region.
But news of the deal outraged France – which was set to land healthy profits from the long-standing submarine agreement.
It quickly accused Australia of “stabbing” it in the back – before Mr Macron took the “unprecedented” move of withdrawing his ambassadors from both countries.
So far, publicly at least, the UK has yet to be drawn into the increasingly bitter spat.
But rather than seeing this as an attempt not to enrage Mr Johnson’s Government – some commentators said this was a “slight” on the UK’s perceived minor role in the deal.
Speaking last night BBC Newsnight’s Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban said it was “unprecedented” for France to recall the ambassadors.
Presenter Kirsty Wark asked: “Why do you think the UK is seemingly exempt from this ambassadorial recall?”
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He replied: “A former French ambassador to the US tweeted just before we came on air (that) it could be seen as a sign of conciliation or one of contempt.
“There’s no doubt that some people in Paris want to throw shade on the UK in this – very much regarding them as the go betweens the Australians and the US in enabling this deal.
“So some people definitely take the view that it is a deliberate slight.
“But there are others that would argue that no – there are so many bilateral important issues going on at the moment that perhaps it would not be wise (to recall the French ambassador to the UK).
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“And the key players in this anyway are Australia and the US.”
When asked about whether Mr Macron’s actions were a slight, France’s former ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann was evasive.
She said: “Well, I can’t really answer your question but I think that the UK was not perceived as (being a) decision holder in the deal.
“The decision was taken by the US and Australia.”
Elsewhere POLITICO journalist Rym Momtaz wrote: “Rarely have French officials been so acerbic in their statements, toward an ally or a foe.
“For them, the US under President Joe Biden is still Trumpian, Australia is disloyal and untrustworthy, and the UK so scorned as to not even be worth mentioning.”
Shortly after the news emerged, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Australia that it could not simply get “out of” the deal.
“This is not over. We’re going to need clarifications. We have contracts,” he told Franceinfo.
“The Australians need to tell us how they’re getting out of it. We’re going to need explanations.
“We have an intergovernmental deal that we signed with great fanfare in 2019, with precise commitments, with clauses, how are they getting out of it?
“They’re going to have to tell us. So this is not the end of the story.”
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