Perfidious Albion: why the confidence of the French in Boris Johnson has plunged

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Perfidious Albion: why the confidence of the French in Boris Johnson has plunged


Boris Johnson’s foreign policy is 80 percent motivated by short-term domestic political interests that make it impossible to reach stable deals with him, senior French sources have concluded.

Paris is increasingly convinced that the British Prime Minister is not interested in resolving the bilateral issues weighing on the relationship, and instead wants to use France as a plague to keep Brexit alive in British politics.

The complaint is in a way a mirror image of the British claim that French attitudes are dictated by domestic politics.

A diplomat called the situation perilous, saying Britain did not appear interested in improving relations until after the French presidential election next April, leaving eight difficult months to come in which relations could still unravel. deteriorate on various fronts.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to appoint his combative Minister of Europe, Clément Beaune, as a key figure in his campaign team. Beaune described the UK as obsessed with France and threatened to cut the UK’s energy supply if it did not cede to French fishing rights in the Channel Islands. The threat was not repeated by French Prime Minister Jean Castex, but France is among a list of countries pushing for trade retaliation if talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol get out of hand.

Technical discussions are underway at the official level on French cooperation in the face of migrants crossing the Channel and the thorny issue of French fishing rights, but other hot spots remain, notably the role of the United Kingdom in the capture of Paris by surprise with the Aukus Defense Pact which caused France to lose a valuable contract to supply Australia with submarines. A canceled meeting between the British and French defense ministers has yet to be rescheduled.

France noted that US President Joe Biden had made substantial concessions after Aukus’ fury and assured Macron that such rudeness would not be repeated, but Johnson made no comparable proposal in his appeal. makeup and instead promoted Admiral Sir Tony Radakin. , the British official most closely involved in the breach of the contract of the French submarines, to the Chief of the Defense Staff.

France also fears that the US decision to share the secrets of the propulsion of its nuclear submarine with Australia could trigger similar decisions and increase the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Indo-Pacific region. South Korea and India are both considered aspirants to own nuclear-powered attack submarines.

France thinks it has the approval of the United States to push for a stronger European role within NATO.

One difficulty, in the eyes of the French, is that Johnson is not a normal politician, but a rarely detailed populist who is unable to keep his word if it costs him the country and who will likely change his style only if the polls begin. to move against him.

Diplomats say Johnson allows phone calls to quickly deflect discussions over a joint Franco-British roadmap to a closer strategic relationship with small-boat complaints, a reference to French fishermen off Jersey. “The instability is that some have concluded that Johnson and Lord Frost [the Brexit minister] don’t want agreements on the Northern Ireland Protocol, or whatever, but will keep increasing requests until they are not possible, ”a French source said.

An imminent test will be the payment of the £ 54million pledged by the UK in June to help cover the cost of policing migrants crossing the Channel. Last weekend, the French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, complained that “not a euro has been paid”, adding sarcastically that this must be due to an accounting error. France claims that more than a quarter of its border budget is devoted to the Channel police.

Darmanin also called, under internal pressure, for a renegotiation of the Treaty of Touquet signed in 2003 – under which the British border was moved to France – which is an almost universal demand of the French right. He stressed that he had not received any response from the British since he requested it this summer and pledged to make the issue a priority for the French Presidency in the first six months of the next year.

Political pressure to take this hard line is intensifying. This weekend, the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, called the British “cynical, sarcastic and incapable of reforming their own labor law even though they in fact widely promote illegal work and reinforce the pull factor. “. An estimated 7,000 migrants crossed the Channel in 2021, double the number that crossed the previous year.

France has also rallied the support of 11 EU maritime countries to demand that the UK respect the spirit and the letter of the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement on fishing rights. Their joint statement says the British are demanding that boats under 12 meters produce GPS records to show whether they have ever fished in its waters is impossible and out of agreement. The reprisals are expected to be announced next week, the French promised.

Jersey announced last month that it had granted 64 definitive licenses to French vessels and 31 temporary licenses – compared to 169 requested by Paris – and rejected 75 requests. The day before, London had granted 12 additional authorizations in its waters, within the limit of six to 12 nautical miles from its coasts – less than a quarter of the 87 requested by France. Jersey Foreign Secretary Senator Ian Gorst said “bureaucratic blockages” could be responsible for the delay, adding that the logbooks would be sufficient evidence.

Any EU registered vessel applying to fish locally must prove that it has operated in Jersey waters for at least 10 days in 2017, 2018 or 2019.

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