French fume after UK, US & Australia torpedo their €50bn submarine contract

Angry tirades, threats of action, and a cancelled French gala in Washington

Montage © Facts4EU.Org 2021

Gallic tempers overheat as their €50bn is sunk and UK soaks up the jobs

A Facts4EU.Org two-part report

Facts4EU.Org summarises the AUKUS facts
with reports from Paris, London, Washington, Canberra, Beijing, and Brussels

  1. What happened on Wednesday – What is ‘AUKUS’?
  2. The fuming French react with anger, threats, and petulance
  3. The Brexit Bonus – French jobs will be transferred to the UK
  4. This would not have been possible under the EU

French tempers flared in Paris and Cherbourg yesterday, as government ministers and union officials took to the airwaves to condemn the actions of the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia in unilaterally declaring a defence alliance.

Not only have the French been excluded from this new ‘AUKUS’ alliance, despite its large naval forces, but the new alliance means that France's €50bn deal with Australia to build 12 new submarines has been scuttled.

What happened on Wednesday and yesterday – What is ‘AUKUS’?

On Wednesday Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Joe Biden, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a joint announcement to the World via video link. A new defence and strategic alliance has been formed between the three countries.

“We are announcing the creation of an enhanced trilateral security partnership called “AUKUS” – Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.”

“As the first initiative under AUKUS, recognizing our common tradition as maritime democracies, we commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.”

“We will leverage expertise from the United States and the United Kingdom, building on the two countries’ submarine programs to bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date.”

“Recognizing our deep defence ties, built over decades, today we also embark on further trilateral collaboration…. These initial efforts will focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities.”

- Joint statement, 15 Sep 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Joe Biden, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison

The impact of this on the French – and their anger

The first and most obvious consequence for France of the new alliance is that their agreement with Australia to build 12 new diesel-powered submarines from the French base at Cherbourg will now be torn up. Originally signed in December 2016 by the Australian Prime Minister and by France's Minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the deal was said to be worth €34.5bn at the time and was expected to generate 3-4,000 new jobs in France. The total contract is now valued at over €56bn.

Paris billed this as “the contract of the century” in 2016, so it is not surprising that reaction in France has been very strong. One of the most vocal condemnations came from the man who signed the initial agreement – now the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Europe, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Photo left: Jean-Yves Le Drian on French TV yesterday, credit: FranceInfo

Monsieur Le Drian and the French Minister of the Armies issued a joint statement yesterday, before taking to the media. In one notable interview on French TV Mr Le Drian used terms like “un coup dans le dos” (a stab in the back) and “une rupture de confiance majeure”, and a “décision brutale” on the part of the US. He described himself as being “angry and very bitter”.

In one comment which was clearly designed to hurt President Biden, he even said: “This brutal, unilateral, unpredictable decision looks very much like what Mr Trump used to do… Allies don’t do this to each other… It’s rather insufferable.”

The French loss of face

On top of the commercial losses to the economy, the French loss of face must not be underestimated. For an agreement to be signed between three major Anglosphere countries, and which excluded France which considers itself to be a major maritime power, will not play well with French voters.

It is even more galling for France when considering that nearly two million French citizens live in the Indo-Pacific region and that some 7,000 French soldiers are based there.

So far the French have threatened punitive actions against Australia for damages and yesterday they cancelled a big Washington gala event for this evening, which was supposed to have celebrated 240 years since the Battle of the Chesapeake, a French naval victory over a British fleet during the American Revolution.

The Brexit Bonus – This would not have been possible under the EU

Under the new AUKUS alliance, jobs will in effect be transferred from France to Brexit Britain.

The UK has built and operated world-class nuclear-powered submarines for over 60 years. The depth of expertise has been well-demonstrated in the work carried out by Rolls Royce near Derby and BAE Systems in Barrow, as well as many other locations. Whilst the full details of Australia’s new submarines still need to be decided upon, the design and build process will create hundreds of highly skilled scientific and engineering roles across the UK, and drive investment in some high-tech sectors of the economy.

© The White House

None of this would have been possible while the United Kingdom was still a member of the European Union. In particular, the UK could not have made such an agreement with the US and Australia without coming up against the “Common Foreign and Security Policy” embodied in the Lisbon Treaty, and by the many extensions of centralised EU foreign and defence policy control which have happened since.

It is inconceivable that the EU superstate hawks in the EU Commission and EU Parliament would have allowed any deviation from the Treaty, allowing the UK to conduct its own foreign policy. Here is what just some of the Treaty has to say:-

Article 24.1: ‘The common foreign and security policy is subject to specific rules and procedures. It shall be defined and implemented by the European Council and the Council acting unanimously, except where the Treaties provide otherwise.’

Article 24.2: 'The Union shall conduct [CFSP] based on the development of mutual political solidarity among Member States' and an 'increasing degree of convergence of Member States' actions'.

Article 24.3: 'Member States ... shall refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness as a cohesive force in international affairs'.

Given that the EU Council has to give overall permission, it is certain that France – and possibly many other countries – would have vetoed the UK’s plans.


The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was clearly in good humour at the announcement of AUKUS on Wednesday when he appeared with the US President and the Australian Prime Minister.

And why not? He has pulled off a coup which gives the newly independent United Kingdom further strategic and defence influence as well as delivering jobs and investment. Not only is the UK now one of the founder members of a new global alignment involving the US and Australia, the new alliance also has the benefit of economic advantage to the UK at the expense of the EU.

Given the nature of their cancelled gala this evening, it might have been thought that the French would have gone ahead, if only to point out to the Americans that they once beat the Royal Navy. Given that this was a very rare victory, and given that it happened 240 years ago, perhaps the French Embassy in Washington did the right thing, however.

Facts4EU has a second part of this report in preparation, covering many more of the implications of this development. Look out for it this weekend, in addition to a shocking report about the NHS and its management.

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[ Sources: No.10 | The White House | Australian Government sites | Ministère des Armées | FranceInfo and other French media | Australian media ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.

Facts4EU.Org, Fri 17 Sep 2021

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