BoJo Reportedly Decried by French Politicians, Diplomats as ‘Populist Incapable of Keeping His Word’
18:40 GMT 16.10.2021 (Updated: 08:11 GMT 06.08.2022)
From contentious post-Brexit negotiations involving the Northern Ireland Protocol and fishing licenses to Channel-crossing migrants and the AUKUS deal, a plethora of flashpoints has been marring relations between France and the UK.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
has been criticised as a “populist” who is impossible to negotiate with in good faith by senior French sources cited by The Guardian.
He's ostensibly described as being 80 percent driven by short-term domestic political interests, with Paris citing the ongoing drawn-out post-Brexit haggling with the European Union over the contentious issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol as proof that the British PM is not interested in long-term solution to problems.
“The instability is that some have concluded that Johnson and Lord Frost [the Brexit minister] do not want agreements on the Northern Ireland protocol, or anything much, but will continue ramping up demands until they are impossible,” a French source is claimed to have said.
Among flashpoint issues souring France-UK ties include the migrant crisis and AUKUS deal. Amid a surge in illegals crossing the English Channel to reach British shores, the UK promised in June to pay France £54 million to help cover the cost of policing the stretch of water.
An estimated 7,000 migrants have crossed the Channel this year alone, double last year's figures, according to UK data. The French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who recently visited Calais to inspect efforts to tackle migration, claimed the UK government has paid “not one euro."
Paris has also been left miffed by the UK’s role in “blindsiding” France with the AUKUS agreement
. After the new trilateral security alliance promised Australia’s Navy US and UK assistance with technology for nuclear submarines, the contract for their construction elbowed out the previous agreement Paris signed with Canberra for 12 conventional attack subs.
An irate France denounced the "stab in the back" move and a meeting was cancelled between French and British defence ministers amid the fallout. In September, when visiting Washington, Boris Johnson
responded to France's reaction to the scrapped multibillion-dollar submarine deal by saying:
"I just think it's time for some of our dearest friends around the world to, you know, 'prenez un grip' about all this and 'donnez-moi un break,' because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security."
Diplomats reportedly described Johnson as prone to sidestepping discussions on a closer strategic UK-French relationship and complaining about small fishing boats, in reference to the spat over Channel Islands fishing rights
An irate Paris, upon discovering that just 12 of the 47 applications the UK government had received from French small boats had been approved in September, resorted to threatening the UK with “pressure” to the point of severing energy supplies if it failed to fully adhere to the terms of the Brexit deal.
Paris was angered further after the government of the British crown dependency, Jersey, rejected 75 of 170 licence applications received from French boats. French politicians believe the UK Prime Minister has been using their country as a “scapegoat” while pushing his Brexit agenda.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to appoint Europe minister Clément Beaune as a key figure in his election campaign team. Beaune is known for not mincing words –he weighed in on the fishing row with London in early October. Speaking on BFM-TV, he told London that Brexit was "your failure, not ours" and warned that Paris could reduce
electricity supplies to the British crown dependency of Jersey as part of “targeted” retaliation measures.
More recently, France rallied the support
of 11 EU maritime nations, including Germany, Italy, Spain, and Belgium, to demand that the UK honour the spirit and letter of the 2019 withdrawal agreement on fishing rights. Speaking in France's Parliament, Prime Minister Jean Castex accused Britain of failing to “respect its own signature."