France has cancelled a meeting between Florence Parly, the armed forces minister, and her British counterpart which was planned for this week as anger mounted in Paris over a submarine deal struck by Britain, the United States and Australia, reports The Times.
Paris accused Britain of “accepting a form of vassal status” to the US amid a row over Australia’s decision to cancel a £47 billion deal to buy 12 French diesel-electric submarines.
Australia cancelled the contract in favour of more sophisticated nuclear-powered submarines from Britain and the US. The move infuriated President Macron, who recalled France’s ambassadors to the US and Australia.
Australia said that it had raised “deep and grave” concerns about its submarine deal with the French months ago.
Clément Beaune, France’s Europe minister, accused the British of kowtowing to Washington. “Our British friends explained to us that they were leaving the EU to create Global Britain. As you can see, it is a return to the American fold and accepting a form of vassal status,” he told Public Sénat, a state television station.
Alok Sharma, the president of Cop26 at the Cabinet Office, told Times Radio: “I don’t see us having vassal status to anyone. What we have here is a deal amongst three close allies. This is about security in the IndoPacific. When it comes to France we will continue to have very close relations with them on security matters through Nato.”
Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, rejected French claims that Canberra had hidden its intentions to abandon the contract, saying that his government had raised concerns about the capability of the Attack-class submarines that France’s Naval Group had been contracted in 2016 to build.
“I think they would have had every reason to know that we had deep and grave concerns that the capability being delivered by the Attack-class submarine was not going to meet our strategic interests and we made it very clear that we would be making a decision based on our strategic national interest,” Morrison said.