What is Aukus and why are the French angry?

France says cancellation of $90bn military deal is a ‘stab in the back’

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says France has been 'stabbed in the back' over the Aukus deal. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek / AFP
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The Aukus security pact is a trilateral partnership that will involve the US and UK providing Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

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

Only six countries in the world have nuclear submarines and the pact will see at least eight built.

The UK presently has 11 nuclear submarines and France has eight.

There will be an initial 18-month consultation period with teams from the three countries working together.

Why is France angry?

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 has seen Australia cancel its contract with France resulting in the loss of major investment and job opportunities for the nation.

France has seen the move as a “stab in the back” as secret negotiations have been taking place since the spring.

It began with a request from Canberra to London to share its submarine nuclear propulsion technology.

But at the G7 summit in Cornwall in June, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson orchestrated a meeting between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Joe Biden.

It led to the deal being sealed and this week American officials credited Mr Johnson with brokering it.

Earlier this week, Mr Johnson said the deal would bring “hundreds” of highly-skilled jobs to Britain.

Many of these jobs would otherwise have gone to France.

France says it feels “betrayed” and on Friday night took the unprecedented step of withdrawing its US ambassadors.

It is the first time France has recalled a US ambassador.

The two countries have been allies since the American war of independence and France has also cancelled an anniversary gala due to be held to mark the Battle of Chesapeake Bay.

Updated: September 20, 2021, 7:01 AM