French minister accuses UK of being in 'American lap' over Aukus pact

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss defended the UK’s role in signing up to the Aukus pact

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen on screen during a virtual press conference with US President Joe Biden. EPA
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A French minister has accused Britain of being America’s junior ally as it struggles to find its place in the world.

Europe Minister Clement Beaune said the UK was in the “American lap” now that it is not in the European Union.

France is angry with the US, Australia and the UK after they signed a three-way defence and tech deal which saw Paris lose jobs and income building Australian submarines.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Sunday defended the UK’s role in signing up to the Aukus pact with Australia and the US.

France has taken the unprecedented step of recalling its ambassadors to the US and Australia, normally close allies, but so far has not taken official aim at London.

In a series of interviews on French television, Mr Beaune suggested the UK was the “junior partner” which had accepted its “vassalisation” by the US.

“Our British friends explained to us they were leaving the EU to create Global Britain. We can see that this is a return into the American lap and a form of accepted vassalisation,” he said.

“The UK is clearly trying to find its feet, perhaps there was a lack of thought about the strategic future. Today they are hiding in the American fold. I hope that will not be their policy for the decades to come.”

“We see through this partnership, this strategic alliance and after the Kabul crisis, that Global Britain seems to be more about a US junior partner than working with different allies,” he added.

President Emmanuel Macron ordered the recall of his ambassadors in Australia and the US after the announcement of the deal.

Under the trilateral deal, the US and the UK will help the Australian navy acquire for the first time a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

It will see nuclear submarines built in Adelaide, South Australia, and will be the first time the UK and US have shared nuclear capabilities with another nation.

Since 2016, France has been in negotiations with Australia to build a fleet of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines in a deal worth £48 billion ($90bn).

The announcement of Aukus this week also saw Australia cancel its contract with France resulting in the loss of major investment and job opportunities for the nation.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Ms Truss, who was promoted to foreign secretary last week, said Britain would always be a “fierce champion” of freedom and free enterprise around the world.

“But freedoms need to be defended, so we are also building strong security ties around the world,” she wrote.

“It shows our readiness to be hard-headed in defending our interests and challenging unfair practices and malign acts,” she added.

Updated: September 18, 2021, 10:11 PM