Boris Johnson, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Joe Biden signed a new defence alliance last week that saw France embarrassingly left out. The partnership, aimed at counteracting China’s military power in the Indo-Pacific, saw an order of French submarines scrapped by the Australians.
French President Emmanuel Macron was left furious and has since cancelled military events with all three of his NATO allies in retaliation.
EU leaders have also lashed out against the three leaders, backing President Macron’s outrage.
But according to EU expert Wolfgang Munchau, Britain’s ability to secure a privileged spot in the alliance without giving EU states notice, was a result of Brussels’ “stupidity” and its conduct during the Brexit talks.
The Director of Eurointelligence wrote: “If the UK had still been a member of the EU, this could still have happened theoretically, but not practically. From the UK’s perspective, Brexit allows strategic options that had hitherto been unthinkable. The UK is also part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group that comprises them, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“The UK’s strategic realignment was not inevitable. It is to a large extent the result of how the EU conducted the Brexit talks.
“The EU leadership never missed an opportunity to criticise Brexit.
“Donald Tusk, former president of the European Council, aligned himself to the second referendum campaign in the UK.
“The EU could have, but did not, support MPs in the UK who sought compromise, like Kenneth Clarke or Stephen Kinnock.
“The second mistake, even worse than the first, was the intent to force the EU’s regulatory system on the UK as a price for a free trade deal.
“At no point did the EU even consider what kind of strategic relationship it wanted with the UK after Brexit.
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“One of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable, so we need to know what happened and why,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in defence of France.
Her EU executive asked for the preparatory EU discussions for the US trade and technology council to be taken off Wednesday’s agenda, two EU diplomats told Reuters.
France said it was assessing all options in response to Australia’s scrapping of a $40 billion submarine contract last week, while its biggest EU ally, Germany, rallied behind it, saying Washington and Canberra had damaged trust between allies that would be difficult to rebuild.
“We cannot exclusively rely on others but must cooperate, and we have to overcome our differences (within the EU) and speak with one voice,” German European affairs minister Michael Roth told reporters at a meeting with his counterparts in Brussels.
“We all need to sit down at a table; lost trust has to be rebuilt – and this will obviously not be easy. But we want to make a constructive contribution,” he added.