France has expressed outrage over being “stabbed in the back” after Australia broke a £65bn submarine construction contract in favor of Britain and the US.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his country had been “betrayed” by Australian PM Scott Morrison as a major international dispute erupted.
He said he was “very angry and bitter” about the move and was angry: “It’s not something that allies do to each other.”
Others in France also pointed fingers at No. 10 and Washington, suggesting that they worked together to secure a lucrative contract.
But Defense Secretary Ben Wallace denied suggestions that the UK had “went fishing” and said Canberra had “contacted us” on the deal.
The extraordinary row comes after Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Mr Morrison unveiled a historic new military partnership last night.
Dubbed AUKUS, the alliance will support the three powers in building Australia’s first nuclear submarine fleet of at least eight ships.
This is being seen as a direct response to the growing threat from China in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
France was contracted to build diesel-powered subs for the Australian Navy, but they are unsuitable for long-range surveillance.
The announcement comes at a humiliating time for Emmanuel Macron and the European Union as the bloc tries to stifle its military ambitions.
Brussels is set to unveil its new Indo-Pacific strategy today, the announcement of which is now about to be bleak.
Mr Le Drian said he agreed with the suggestion that Paris had been “betrayed” by Australia over a subsea construction contract.
He said angrily: “It’s really a stab in the back. The trust we had established with Australia has been betrayed.
“I’m very angry today, and bitter. It’s not something that allies do to each other.
“This unilateral, sudden and unexpected decision is very much a reminder of what Mr Trump would do.
“We will need clarification. We have contracts – the Australians need to tell us how they intend to get out of them.”
French Defense Minister Florence Parly also suggested the move would dent his country’s ties with the US.
He raged: “In terms of geopolitics and international relations, this is serious.”
Other senior figures in France also came down heavily on the decision to terminate the submarine contract.
Former Brexit negotiator and presidential candidate Michelle Barnier said: “Australia is taking an unfair blow for promising strategic cooperation.
“This behavior among allies is not acceptable. Lessons will also need to be learned on the political backing of such contracts.
This behavior is not acceptable among colleagues
Former Brexit negotiator Michelle Barnier
Gerard Aroud, former French ambassador to Washington, said: “The world is a jungle.
“The way America and Britain stabbed him in the back in Australia, France has remembered this bitter truth. C’est la vie.”
The PM stressed that Britain’s “military ties with France remain strong” despite the controversy.
He told the Commons: “This government’s commitment to NATO is absolutely unshakable and in fact the massive commitments we’ve strengthened are the biggest uptick in defense spending since the Cold War.”
But last night’s historic military deal caused a stir elsewhere around the world.
New Zealand and Canada, which are members of the Five Eyes intelligence group along with the US, UK and Australia, were sidelined.
Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern immediately announced that the Australian deputy would be banned from her county’s waters in line with her non-nuclear policy.
China, widely seen as a target of the new coalition, also rebuked the Western allies for having a “cold war mentality”.
But the new deal is likely to be a boon to British workers, creating hundreds of new highly skilled jobs.
Both Rolls-Royce in Derby and BAE Systems at Barrow-in-Furnace are expected to be involved in the delivery of the new submarines.