Macron recalls US & Australian ambassadors in fit of rage over cancelled submarine deal

France has reacted angrily to Australia’s cancellation of a multi-billion submarine deal by recalling ambassadors from Canberra and Washington. The move was described by the country’s foreign minister as of “exceptional seriousness”.

On Wednesday, the UK, Australia and the United States signed a historic defence agreement widely seen as a move to combat China’s influence in the Pacific.

Boris Johnson told the House of Commons this week that Australia and the United Kingdom are “closely aligned in international policy as any two countries in the world”. He robustly denied the ‘AUKUS’ partnership was an “adversarial” move against China.

As part of the arrangement, the Royal Australian Navy will procure new submarines built by the Americans with many components likely to be manufactured in Britain. The Australian fleet has never previously been in possession of nuclear subs.

The pact between English-speaking allies killed a deal for new submersibles signed with the French in 2016 and was announced hours before the European Commission president gave what was supposed to be a landmark address on the EU projecting power abroad, which consequently fell flat.

Late on Friday, France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian vented French fury, announcing he was bringing back two of his top diplomats for “consultations”.

Le Drian said: “This exceptional decision is justified because of the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on 15 September by Australia and the United States.”

France’s subs deal with Australia was worth £50bn, but the project had been languishing due to cost overruns and design changes. French company, Naval Group said losing the contract was a “great disappointment”.

“The abandoning of the ocean class submarine project that linked Australia and France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States to launch studies on possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners, the consequences of which affect the very conception we have of our alliances, our partnerships and the importance of the Indo-Pacific region for Europe,” Le Drian added.

In addition to recalling ambassadors from Canberra and Washington, Emmanuel Macron’s government cancelled a Washington gala event celebrating America’s victory over the British at Chesapeake Bay in 1781. The American War of Independence is the foundation of the two countries’ centuries-old alliance which has not always been smooth and long ago gazumped by the Special Relationship between Britain and the United States.

The Daily Mail reports that Britain’s defence industry is likely to benefit from Australia’s subs contract with the French being ripped up. BAE Systems employs 9,000 people at its massive shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness where it builds submarines. Rolls Royce builds world-class underwater turbines at its Derby plant.

France has not formally targeted the UK with their diplomatic tantrum (would that be an admission Brexit is delivering?) although a French insider told Reuters “The UK accompanied this operation opportunistically. We do not need to consult in Paris with our ambassador to know what to think and what conclusions to draw from it.”

Canberra has been quick to try and mend ties. “Australia understands France’s deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests,” said a spokesperson for foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne.

“Australia values its relationship with France, which is an important partner and a vital contributor to stability, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. This will not change.”

Wash away the diplo-speak and what the Ozzies are really saying is, “we couldn’t give a monkeys”.