French Minister Pulls Out of Meeting With UK Defense Minister Amid Submarines Row

September 20, 2021 Updated: September 20, 2021

French Defense Minister Florence Parly has postponed a meeting with counterpart Ben Wallace as the international fallout from the row over a lucrative submarines contract continues.

The UK, United States, and Australia agreed a new pact, which includes the development of nuclear-powered submarines—a deal that tore up an agreement for Paris to supply Sydney with diesel–electric boats.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Parly had been due to hold a bilateral meeting and address an event held by the Franco–British Council.

A spokesman for the Franco–British Council said: “The defense conference planned for Sept. 23 has been postponed to a later date.

“The Franco–British Council regularly brings together the defense community in France and the UK and we look forward to holding our rearranged conference when a new date has been agreed.”

Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said “all international relationships go through ups and downs.”

“The relationship with France, as I say, all bilateral relationships go through periods of tension, that is the inevitability of relationships, just as it is,” he told the BBC.

“On a personal level, I have absolutely no doubt that, ultimately, our relationship with France will endure, but this is about making sure that we have a really strong defense relationship with two very, very important defense partners.”

He added, “The bottom line is, ultimately, the UK and France have many shared interests, I’m sure that will come to the fore.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged French President Emmanuel Macron not to “worry” about the Aukus military alliance Britain formed with the United States and Australia.

The prime minister insisted Anglo–French relations were “ineradicable” on Sunday after France suggested the UK was a lapdog to U.S. President Joe Biden’s White House during a verbal attack.

In a rare step among allies, Macron ordered the recall of the French ambassadors to Washington and Canberra after Australia pulled out of its £30 billion ($41 billion) submarine agreement with the French.

No such step followed for London, and France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune suggested it was because the UK was the “junior partner” that had accepted its “vassalization” by the United States.

But Johnson insisted Britain and France have a “very friendly relationship,” which he described as being of “huge importance.”

“Our love of France is ineradicable,” he told reporters as he traveled to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

“Aukus is not in any way meant to be zero-sum, it’s not meant to be exclusionary. It’s not something that anybody needs to worry about and particularly not our French friends.”

New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss touched down in New York alongside Johnson as they both prepare to meet Biden in Washington on Tuesday.

She will also attend the U.N. summit, where she will come into contact with the French, though the extent of any planned conversations was unclear.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the deal as a “stab in the back” and constituted “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”

In an interview with France 2 television, Le Drian accused Australia and the United States of “duplicity, disdain, and lies” and said the recalling of France’s ambassadors “signifies the force of the crisis today.”

He said allies “don’t treat each other with such brutality, such unpredictability, a major partner like France … So there really is a crisis.”

By David Hughes, Geri Scott, and Sam Blewett