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Boris Johnson mocks French outrage over submarine spat

Boris Johnson mocks French outrage over submarine spat

22.09.2021 From our online archive
UK Prime Minister dismissed anger in Paris over deal, saying it was time to "donnez-moi un break" after meeting with US President Joe Biden
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed anger in France over the deal
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed anger in France over the deal
Photo credit: AFP

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told France it’s time to get over its anger about being brushed aside as the US and Britain cut a deal to supply Australia with nuclear submarines.

He made the comments in a pooled television clip in Washington on Wednesday following a meeting with US President Joe Biden the previous evening. France certainly did come up in his 90-minute chat with Biden, Johnson added.

“I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break,” Johnson told reporters outside the Capitol building. 

Paris reacted with fury to news of three-way defence pact last week, recalling its ambassadors in Washington and Canberra while dismissing the UK as a bit player, whose role as a “spare tire” didn’t merit a diplomatic slap. As part of the deal, Australia cancelled a $66 billion (€56 billion) deal to purchase diesel-powered submarines from France. 

On Wednesday Johnson appeared to leave the door open for France or other nations to join the agreement, which aims to increase western influence in the Indo-Pacific region. 

“It’s not exclusive,” Johnson said. “It’s not trying to shoulder anybody out. It’s not adversarial towards China for instance.”

But his latest comments are unlikely to go down well in Paris, where President Emmanuel Macron is preparing to chat with Biden later on Wednesday. French officials say they were given no warning of the deal and have taken the lack of communication as a personal slight that they say is unworthy of an ally. 

Johnson suffered his own disappointment after Biden indicated there’s no prospect of a bilateral trade deal between the UK and the US any time soon. Johnson had told British voters that a commercial agreement with the US would be one of the great prizes after Brexit. 

“The Biden administration is not doing free trade deals around the world right now but I’ve got absolutely every confidence that a great deal is there to be done,” he said. “And there are plenty of people in that building behind me who certainly want a deal.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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