Watch: Truss applauded by Tory members after Macron put-down
French president Emmanuel Macron has said France remains friends with the UK “in spite of its leaders” - hitting back at Liz Truss after her remarks about him to Tory members sparked a diplomatic row.
Macron said it would be a “problem” otherwise.
Truss, the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership contest who is widely expected to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister in two weeks’ time, told a hustings in Norwich “the jury’s out” when asked if Macron is a “friend of foe” to the UK.
She added “I would judge him on deeds, not words” if she becomes PM. Her opponent, Rishi Sunak, had quickly answered “friend” when asked the same question.
The foreign secretary has been criticised for the remarks, which Labour has said showed a “terrible and worrying lack of judgement”.
Macron, asked about Truss’ comments on Friday, said: “If the French and British are not capable of saying whether we are friends or enemies - the term is not neutral - we are going to have a problem.
“So yes of course the British people, the nation which is the United Kingdom, is a friend, strong and allied, whoever who its leaders are and sometimes in spite of the leaders and the small mistakes they can make in their speeches.”
A number of issues have affected the UK/France relationship in recent months, most notably record numbers of migrants crossing the Channel from France and major travel disruption around Dover, which Truss has blamed on a lack of staffing by the French authorities.
Miguel Berger, the German ambassador to the UK, was among those who criticised Truss, saying the UK’s relationship with France is of “crucial importance” and should be kept “as close as possible”.
Watch: Emmanuel Macron is a 'tres bon buddy' of the UK - Boris Johnson
Outgoing PM Johnson also waded into the debate, saying Macron is a “tres bon [very good] buddy” of the UK.
“I think the relations between the UK and France are of huge importance. They have been very good for a long time, ever since the Napoleonic era basically, and I think we should celebrate that.
“As for Emmanuel, I’ve had very good relations with him and I can tell you something: he’s a great, great fan of our country.”