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French diplomats say Boris Johnson ‘is populist who won’t keep his word if it will cost him at home’

Boris Johnson‘s short-term foreign policy goals have made it impossible to make agreements with him, senior French sources have claimed.

Politicians in Paris believe the prime minister is a populist who wants to use France as a scapegoat to keep pushing his Brexit agenda and he has no interest in solving issues in the cross-Channel relationship.

One diplomat told The Guardian the situation is perilous and Britain appears to be waiting until after the French election in April to improve the damaged relationship.

A French source said: ‘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.’ 

The French claims mirror accusations in Britain that Macron’s view of London is clouded by internal politics.

Boris Johnson’s short-term foreign policy goals have made it impossible to make agreements with him, senior French sources have claimed

The president is expected to appoint Europe minister Clément Beaune as a key figure in his election campaign team. 

Beaune has frequently taken swipes at the UK, saying the country is obsessed with France and threatened to reduce energy supplies if London does not back down over Channel Islands fishing rights.

Paris was infuriated when Jersey only granted licences to 12 small French boats out of 47 applications this summer – with warnings that vessels could mount a blockade. 

France is also among a number of countries seeking trade reprisals if Northern Ireland protocol talks stall, while the migrant crisis remains another sticking point between the two nations.

The UK promised in June to pay £54million to help cover the cost of policing migrants attempting to cross the Channel but last weekend, France claimed that ‘not one euro has been paid’. 

Politicians in Paris believe the prime minister wants to use France as a scapegoat to keep pushing his Brexit agenda

Politicians in Paris believe the prime minister wants to use France as a scapegoat to keep pushing his Brexit agenda

One of the main bones of contention remains the Aukus submarine defence pact that resulted in France losing a major contract with Australia. 

A meeting that was cancelled between French and British defence ministers is yet to be rescheduled amid the fallout from the snub.

Since the Aukus furore, Joe Biden has made concessions and assured Macron it would not be repeated, but Johnson has made no such promises.

The prime minister has even promoted Admiral Sir Tony Radakin to chief of defence staff, the official most involved in scrapping the submarine contract.

Johnson also told France to ‘prenez un grip’ and ‘donnez moi un break’ in the row about the secret deal that tore up a separate French contract. 

The problem is worsened because France does not see Johnson as a normal politician, but someone who is guided only by the polls and what is popular with British voters. 

The president is expected to appoint Europe minister Clément Beaune as a key figure in his election campaign team

The president is expected to appoint Europe minister Clément Beaune as a key figure in his election campaign team

The mayor Calais, Natacha Bouchart, said last weekend the British are ‘cynical, sarcastic and unable to reform their own labour laws even though they in fact largely promote illegal work and reinforce the pull factor’.

It is believed that 7,000 migrants have crossed the Channel this year alone, double last year’s figures.

Meanwhile in the latest row, France rallied its European allies to present a ‘common front’ against the UK in the row over post-Brexit fishing licences.  

Ten nations – including Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium – joined the French in signing a joint statement that calls on the UK to abide by the terms of the Brexit trade agreement and ensure ‘continuity’ for French fishing fleets.

They take particular issue with Britain’s demand that French vessels supply geolocation data to get a licence, saying it ‘is not provided for in the deal.’

France is still thought to be preparing separate ‘retaliatory’ measures designed to punish the UK and which will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

In France’s parliament last week, Prime Minister Jean Castex accused Britain of reneging on its promise over fishing.

‘We see in the clearest way possible that Great Britain does not respect its own signature,’ he said, adding that ‘all we want is that a given word is respected.’


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