France has warned that upcoming Brexit talks are under threat because of Britain’s ‘breach of trust’ over the AUKUS submarine deal.
French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said he would raise the trade pact at a meeting with European counterparts in Brussels after they were left out of the secret agreement.
He told reporters: ‘We see with Brexit, we see with the AUKUS project, that we first need to rebuild confidence… we need to discuss together. We are not in this context at the moment.’
France has warned that upcoming Brexit talks are under threat because of Britain’s ‘breach of trust’ over the AUKUS submarine deal
In a thinly-veiled attack on Boris Johnson, he added that the UK had joined as a ‘junior partner’ after facing ‘pressure’ from Joe Biden.
Talks are scheduled between Britain and the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol and post-Brexit fishing rights.
But these could be hampered by the new agreement, Beaune suggested.
He said: ‘There is a difficult relationship with the UK. We signed an agreement and we still see today that in terms of fishing and the Irish protocol, these agreements are not well applied and they are not fully respected.
‘So we want to be extremely clear and repeat that the agreement must be respected. It is also a question of trust, of keeping your word, of respecting the interests of Europeans. We can’t say we take the things that suit us and forget about the ones that don’t.’
The Indo-Pacific security pact will see Australia cancel a multi-billion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire US nuclear-powered vessels instead.
In a direct attack, Beaune added that the UK had joined as a ‘junior partner’ after facing ‘pressure’ from Joe Biden
The French government is suggesting it was betrayed by the deal, which comes in the run-up to elections in France in April.
‘It’s a matter of trust,’ Beaune said. ‘When you have your word, it has some value between allies, between democracies, between partners and in this case this word was not respected… so of course it creates a breach of trust.’
‘We have to be firm, not as French but as Europeans, because it’s a matter of the way we work together as allies,’ he said.
German Europe Minister Michael Roth said France’s diplomatic crisis with the US was a ‘wake-up call for all of us’ on the importance of uniting an often divided EU on foreign and security policy.
Europe broke its silence and backed a furious France, which has accused the United States, Australia and Britain of working behind its back to negotiate their defence pact.
The show of solidarity from Germany and the EU’s top officials was welcomed by France, which said the breakdown of trust with Washington strengthened the case for Europe to set its own strategic course.
Beaune called the row ‘a European issue’ not simply a French one, as he arrived at ministerial talks in Brussels, with the chaotic US pullout from Afghanistan in August also a source of irritation among EU members.
‘I don’t think France is overreacting and I don’t think France should overreact. But when a situation… is serious, I think it’s also our responsibility to state it very clearly,’ he said.
The Indo-Pacific security pact will see Australia cancel a multi-billion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines (pictured)
The European Commission said it was considering whether the diplomatic storm would affect a gathering of a new EU-US Trade and Technology Council in Pittsburgh on September 29 to discuss ways to cooperate on trade and regulate big tech.
‘We are analysing the impact that the AUKUS announcement would have on this date,’ European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said.
An EU diplomat said France had ‘floated’ the idea of delaying the TTC meeting, though they face opposition from the Baltic republics, which border Russia and set great store in the NATO alliance.
The European Commission, which handles trade policy for the EU’s 27 member states, already said on Monday it was looking into delaying negotiations with Australia on Canberra’s three-year bid to secure an EU trade deal.
‘It is up to the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to decide,’ said another EU diplomat, referring to the president of the commission, the EU chief executive.
Von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, on Monday said the way France had been treated was ‘unacceptable’, though she gave no indication on the fate of the trade talks.
Arnoldas Pranckevicius, the Lithuanian deputy minister for European Affairs, told reporters that overcoming the mistrust would be in the interests of both Europe and the US and that his government would be ‘the last … standing in defence of transatlantic unity’.
Sweden’s EU minister Hans Dahlgren also expressed reservations, saying he understood French irritation but wanted more detail on what had happened over the submarine deal.
‘I don’t think we should restructure the EU’s trade policy because of this,’ he said.
The creation of an EU-US tech council was agreed at a summit in June. Washington was expected to use it to seek deeper support from the Europeans on curbing the ambitions of emerging superpower China.