British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday ordered France to get a grip and give its allies in the United States and Australia a break over a dispute over a trilateral nuclear submarine agreement that shattered a second French contract. Last week, Britain, the United States, and Australia established a new defence alliance to provide Canberra with access to nuclear-powered submarine technology. After Australia backed out of a defence contract with Paris to acquire conventional submarines, France accused US President Joe Biden of stabbing it in the back and acting like his predecessor Donald Trump.
Paris has summoned its ambassadors from the United States and Australia, but not from the United Kingdom. It has made no public mention of London, and officials have privately stated that London’s involvement is “smoke and mirrors.” Johnson told reporters a day after meeting Biden in Washington, “I simply believe it’s time for some of our best friends around the globe to ‘prenez un grip’ on all of this, ‘donnez-moi un break,’ because this is essentially a wonderful step forward for global security.” He translated the English terms ‘get a grip’ and ‘give me a break’ into French.
The remarks are sure to inflame Paris’ rage even more. According to two diplomatic sources, there have been instructions to minimise interactions with the United Kingdom in the short term. Officials said Britain’s involvement in promoting the new alliance was more than previously understood. The deal came to fruition during a G7 summit in Cornwall in June, which President Emmanuel Macron also attended.
In a rare reply, Macron’s administration categorically refuted a story published on Wednesday in Britain’s Daily Telegraph that said the president was prepared to give up France’s permanent position on the UN Security Council in return for the establishment of a European Union army. Neither the French foreign ministry nor the French president could be reached for comment.