Boris Johnson tells France to 'get a grip' following anger over submarine deal

It comes as US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron speak for the first time since the submarine row erupted.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Source: PA Wire

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has turned to franglais, a blend of French and English, in an appeal to France and other neighbours over Britain's new security pact with the US and Australia.

France is angry about not being involved in talks over the new AUKUS pact, which resulted in Australia cancelling a multi-billion dollar deal for France to equip it with new diesel-powered submarines and instead acquire US nuclear ones.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Britain was a "third wheel" in the deal that was guilty of "constant opportunism".

But Mr Johnson said it was "time for some of our dearest friends around the world to 'prenez un grip' (get a grip)".

"'Donnez-moi un break', because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security," he told Sky News during a visit to Washington.

Rather than a snub to European neighbours, it was "three very like-minded allies standing shoulder to shoulder, creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology," he added.

"I find it very hard to see in this agreement anything not to like."

France on Monday cancelled a meeting set for this week between its Defence Minister Florence Parly and her British counterpart Ben Wallace.

Biden and Macron talk

US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron spoke for the first time on Wednesday since the row erupted over the sale of submarines to Australia.

In a joint statement issued after the call, the leaders vowed to launch a process of "in-depth consultations... for ensuring confidence" and to meet in Europe at the end of October at an unspecified location.

In what amounted to an acknowledgement of French anger, the statement from the White House said that "the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners".

US President Joe Biden, right, speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a NATO summit back in June 2021.
Source: Pool AFP

But the French-language version issued by the Elysee Palace of the joint statement was even more explicit, saying that open consultations "would have avoided this situation."

The statement also said the US recognised the need for stronger European defence to complement the NATO military alliance, a key idea repeatedly floated by the French leader.

In the first concrete sign of a slackening of tensions, Mr Macron agreed to send France's ambassador back to Washington next week after he was recalled to Paris in an unprecedented diplomatic protest.

The October meeting between Mr Macron and Mr Biden would meanwhile seek "to reach shared understandings and maintain momentum in this process" to restore confidence, the statement said.

Published 23 September 2021 at 7:02am
Source: AFP - SBS