Submarine deal ‘about reinforcing our security — not France’

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Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the agreement between the countries “is not about France” (PA Archive)
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the agreement between the countries “is not about France” (PA Archive)

A minister on Monday sought to calm tensions with France amid the ongoing diplomatic row over Britain’s new military alliance with the US and Australia.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the agreement between the countries “is not about France”, insisting the deal to help Australia build nuclear-powered submarines was essential to reinforcing the UK’s defence and security.

But he said he was confident the relationship with France would recover — even though a meeting this week between UK and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and France’s Armed Forces minister Florence Parly has been cancelled by Paris.

“The agreement we have come to with the United States of America and Australia about submarine manufacture is not about France,” Mr Cleverly told Sky News. “It is about our very strong relationship with the United States and Australia.

“It’s also about reinforcing incredibly important and strong defence relationships and about making sure we have high-tech manufacturing jobs here in the UK.

“Obviously, with any international relationship there are ups and downs, and I have no doubt we will ultimately resolve any frictions that there are currently with France.”

French ministers have ridiculed the UK for its part in a deal which led to Australia cancelling a £47 billion deal to buy 12 conventional attack submarines from France.

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