VDL throws Macron under the bus and presses on with US talks despite French submarine snub

Andrew Pierce says France's submarines are 'useless'

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France’s anger over the AUKUS submarine pact between the US, UK and Australia had raised doubts over whether the talks would take place. But the European Commission last night confirmed the gathering will happen, as scheduled, in Pittsburgh on September 29. This will come as a huge blow to Paris at a time when it is trying to flex its diplomatic muscles in a bid to secure compensation after Australia pulled out of a contract for the purchase of 12 French-built submarines.

Canberra reneged on the deal in favour of an agreement to secure nuclear-powered vessels from the British and Americans.

A Commission spokeswoman said: “The Commission confirms that the Trade and Technology Council will take place in Pittsburg next week.”

She added: “The TTC will address short-term semiconductor issues in Pittsburgh.

“Following in-depth discussion at the European Council in October, conversations on mid-and-longer-term strategic semiconductor issues will begin in TTC working groups to prepare for the next TTC in Europe.”

Up until last night the Commission had avoided the question of whether the summit would go ahead because of French anger at the US and Australia.

Commission President Mrs von der Leyen has vowed to show solidarity with Paris over the submarine snub.

But US President Joe Biden has moved in to calm tensions and held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The White House boss conceded that Washington should have consulted Paris over the defence pact.

Mr Macron had recalled his ambassadors from the US and Australia in retaliation to the snub.

But the French leader has since sent his envoy back to Washington after speaking to Mr Biden.

In a joint statement, the two men agreed to meet in Europe in late October, probably at the G20 summit, to discuss how to improve consultations in future.

Mr Macron said he would dispatch his withdrawn ambassador back to Washington DC next week.

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There was no sign that America or Australia would go back on their decision to work together on building nuclear powered submarines.

Analysts have described the AUKUS alliance as probably the most significant security arrangement between the three nations since World War Two.

The trio will focus on military capability, separating it from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance which also includes New Zealand and Canada.

While Australia’s submarines are the main plank, AUKUS will also involve the sharing of cyber capabilities and undersea tech.

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Meanwhile, Pierre Eric Pommellet, the head of French defence contractor Naval Group, said his firm will be seeking compensation for Australia’s cancellation of its £48 billion contract for 12 diesel-electric submarines.

He said the only valid point of the proposed new deal “is the decision to acquire nuclear powered boats. When, how, with which partners, which technological transfer? No one knows. Australia, on the other hand, knows what it is losing and what we were committed to building.”

Mr Pommellet added: “At Naval Group … we had no warning sign or the slightest information that we were becoming a plan B in favour of a plan A with the United States and the United Kingdom.

“Discussions between these two countries and Australia have undoubtedly been conducted in a very small circle at the highest political level for several months.

“This decision was announced to us without any notice, with incredible brutality.”

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