Macron ‘waiting for Johnson’s proposals’ after PM tries to smooth tensions

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Boris Johnson with French president Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in Cornwall (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)
Boris Johnson with French president Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in Cornwall (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)

Emmanuel Macron told Boris Johnson to come up with ideas to repair relations between London and Paris when the Prime Minister tried to smooth over tensions provoked by a submarine row.

The men spoke in a call on Friday after France was angered by Australia cancelling a lucrative contract to provide subs when it formed a new military pact with the US and Britain.

The talks appeared to be a bid by Mr Johnson to calm the tensions that had only been heightened by his use of inflammatory language in response to France recalling ambassadors and postponing high-level meetings.

Mr Macron’s office said the Prime Minister had requested the call and “expressed his intention to restore co-operation between France and the United Kingdom”, including on the climate crisis, terrorism and the Indo-Pacific region.

The French president told Mr Johnson that “he is awaiting his proposals”, the Elysee added in its brief statement.

The diplomatic row began when the UK and US agreed to help provide Australia with nuclear-powered subs under the Aukus pact announced last week.

Paris described the deal as a “stab in the back” after it led to Canberra pulling out of a £30 billion agreement for France to supply conventionally powered diesel-electric vessels.

Downing Street’s description of the call was more muted than France’s, with No 10 saying the men discussed “a range of issues of mutual interest”, including military co-operation through Nato.

They reaffirmed the importance of the UK-France relationship and agreed to continue working closely together around the world on our shared agenda, through Nato and bilaterally

No 10

“They reaffirmed the importance of the UK-France relationship and agreed to continue working closely together around the world on our shared agenda, through Nato and bilaterally,” No 10 said.

They also discussed the “strategic significance of our long-standing co-operation in the Indo-Pacific”, with Aukus widely seen as an attempt to counter China’s assertiveness.

No 10 said they also discussed migrants making small boat crossings in the Channel, and the post-Brexit issues of fisheries licences and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Buoyed by a positive meeting with US president Joe Biden Mr Johnson stoked tensions further earlier this week by using “Franglais” to tell Mr Macron he should “prenez un grip” and give him a “break”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets US president Joe Biden at the White House (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets US president Joe Biden at the White House (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

It also emerged that Mr Biden and the Prime Minister discussed further deepening the Aukus pact, while maintaining that further allies, including France, would not be able to join.

Mr Johnson raised the possibility of it being extended to include technology, such as cyber and artificial intelligence, and said that he and Mr Biden had been “taken aback” by the angry reaction from Paris.

People familiar with UK Government thinking said the men also spoke about deepening the pact to collaborate on other areas such as principles on open markets, enhancing non-nuclear deterrents and tackling human rights issues.

There had been some thawing of tensions between the US and France after Mr Macron and Mr Biden held a call.

France committed to sending back its ambassador to Washington next week, having ordered his return in response to the Aukus pact.

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