Watch: PM urges French 'donnez-moi un break' over Aukus
Boris Johnson has told French president Emmanuel Macron to “donnez-moi un break” and get over his anger about the new military pact forged between the Australia, the UK and the US.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, the prime minister used Franglais as he said: “I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break.
“Because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security. It’s three very like-minded allies standing shoulder to shoulder creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology.
“It’s not exclusive. It’s not trying to shoulder anybody out. It’s not adversarial towards China, for instance.”
The Australia-UK-US Aukus pact saw Sydney decide to pursue the development of nuclear-powered submarines at the expense of a deal with France to provide diesel-electric boats.
The diplomatic fallout has seen France recall its ambassadors from Australia and the US and postpone high-level meetings.
This week, British defence secretary Ben Wallace sought to play down suggestions of a rift between the UK and France, insisting there was “no sneakiness behind the back” over the lucrative submarines contract.
He was speaking after his French counterpart Florence Parly postponed a meeting with him amid the international fallout from the contract row.
A defence source told the PA news agency that “the meeting is postponed, not cancelled” and highlighted the strength of the UK military relationship with “trusted allies” France, including operations in Mali and complex weapons development.
However, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the deal as a “stab in the back” and constituted “unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners”.
In an interview with France 2 television, Le Drian accused Australia and the US 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”.
Johnson's tone on Wednesday was a marked shift from the more conciliatory one over the weekend, when he urged Macron not to “worry” about Aukus.
The PM insisted Anglo-French relations were “ineradicable” on Sunday after France suggested the UK was a lapdog to Biden’s White House during a verbal attack.
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 travelling with him on the RAF Voyager to 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 launched a defence of the agreement after arriving in Washington DC with the prime minister.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Truss said Britain would always be a “fierce champion” of freedom and free enterprise around the world.
“It shows our readiness to be hard-headed in defending our interests and challenging unfair practices and malign acts,” she added.
Watch: Recalled French ambassador call Aukus submarine deal a 'huge mistake'