Boris Johnson appeared to compare Emmanuel Macron to a spurned lover last night – amid an extraordinary diplomatic row over a new security deal.
The prime minister admitted that he and Joe Biden had been “baffled” by the strength of the French reaction to the removal of the Aukus pact with the United States and Australia.
But he risked adding fuel to the fire by indulging in “Fr English” gibes and appearing to compare President Macron to a romantic partner who learned they were dumped at the last minute.
Speaking to reporters on a trip to the United States, the prime minister admitted that France may have learned of the deal late.
“There is no easy way to have these conversations,” he said. It is a very human thing to delay frank conversation until the last possible moment.
“I don’t know if anyone has been in this situation in their emotional life, but it’s very human to put it off.
Boris Johnson risked adding fuel to the fire by indulging in “Frenglish” gibes and appearing to compare President Macron to a romantic partner who learned they were dumped at the last minute.
What would Churchill do? : Speaking to reporters on a trip to the United States, the Prime Minister admitted that France may have learned late about the agreement on the submarine Aukus
“Everyone was a little surprised by the strength of the French reaction and we all want to reach out to Paris and sort something out.”
However, Mr Johnson appeared to mock Mr Macron, saying it was time for some of ‘our dearest friends’ to ‘take a hold on this and give me a break’ – take back control and give me a break.
It emerged yesterday that despite the row, Aukus’ three partners hope to use the security agreement to deepen their relationship.
It is understood that France will not be invited to join the group.
Mr Johnson appeared to mock Mr Macron, saying it was time for some of ‘our dearest friends’ to ‘take a take on this and give me a break’ – take a take and give me a break
Paris was furious at the secret Aukus deal, which cost it a £ 50 billion contract to supply Australia with diesel submarines.
Australia reportedly informed Paris shortly before that it was switching to nuclear-powered submarines offered by the United States and the United Kingdom.
Some Whitehall sources believe the French outrage is designed to try and get more compensation from Australia.
Yesterday, the prime minister said he wanted to build bridges with the French after claiming to be “stabbed in the back” by allies.
Defending the deal, he told reporters in Washington DC: “This is fundamentally a big step forward for global security.
“These are three like-minded allies standing side by side to create a new partnership for sharing technology.
“It’s not exclusive. He doesn’t try to support anyone. It is not contradictory with China for example.
It is understood that Mr Johnson discussed deepening the deal in separate talks in Washington with Mr Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The three men are said to be keen to extend the agreement to other areas, such as the defense of human rights and the opening of markets.
President Biden and Mr Johnson have reportedly discussed their “astonishment” at the scale of French anger.
Mr Morrison assured them both that he had informed Paris of the deal in advance.
The agreement between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom will allow the former to secure its very first fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
Senior diplomats believe the French government is furious with its security agencies for missing signals that the Aukus deal is being reached.
But some think that French indignation is synthetic.
A source from Whitehall said: “They keep going – it’s amazing.
“Ultimately, this is a sovereign decision for Australia as to who it wishes to provide its submarine capability.”
The deal comes just months before the French presidential elections, in which Mr Macron is seeking to extend his term.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the agreement as “a stab in the back”.
The French government has taken the unprecedented step of withdrawing its ambassadors from the United States and Australia in protest.
Mr Le Drian said Britain was guilty of “permanent opportunism” but was only a “fifth wheel on the wagon” of the deal.
So far Mr Johnson has tried to appease Mr Macron’s hurt pride.
Speaking to reporters en route to the United States on Sunday, he said: “Our love for France is ineradicable.”