The week the world leaders gathered Nova York For the United Nations General Assembly, one man’s absence cast a long shadow over what were already defined as tense days.
French President Emmanuel Macron will never be personally at the UNGA. However, his non-appearance was impossible to separate – even in virtual form – from the scuffle that followed the Under Seas deal between Australia, the UK and the USA (AUKUS), which later led the Australian government to A multi-billion dollar deal abandoned. with France.
French officials, with good reason, are furious. Three of his alleged associates closed a deal behind his back and one of them abandoned the contract he signed years earlier. For a man who presented the presidency as Europe’s most serious leader, both at home and globally, it was a great shame.
On the other hand, for Boris Johnson, who led the Brexit campaign and accused his country of making his country an insular and “global unimportant”, it was a hat-trick (when a player scores three goals during a football match). standing side by side with US President Joe Biden; to make an agreement with two nations on opposite sides of the world; All this is provoking France in the process.
It is this last point that best explains both the hostile rhetoric coming from France and the provocative language of the British last week.
When France withdrew its ambassadors from Washington DC and Canberra, it chose not to do so in Britain, which was seen as a form of contempt. France’s European minister called the UK a “junior partner”, acknowledging the “looseness” on the part of the US.
Johnson responded to the animosity in offhand French by saying that some people needed to pull themselves together and give it a break.
“I think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to relax about all this,’give me a break‘” he told reporters during his visit to the United States.
As childish as it all sounds, it can have consequences.
France and Britain are neighbors who love to hate each other.
“Politics is usually as simple as that: people like to be on the side of a rivalry and they like it when it’s over,” says Rob Ford, professor of politics at the University of Manchester.
Last week must have been an incredibly difficult one for Macron. The AUKUS deal not only undermined France’s claim of being Europe’s most serious geopolitical player, but it propelled Johnson to a string of victories in the US – a meeting at the White House; Global leaders are backing their climate goals and the end of the US travel ban. The entire time, Macron was absent and despised.
Ford explains that this plays into one of Johnson’s particular strengths: using non-diplomatic language—”get it together”—that can be offensive when entertaining his home audience.
But why would he, or any world leader, take the risk of committing such a crime? Bluntly: It is politically appropriate for Macron and Johnson to engage in bitter argument.
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Aurelian Mondon, senior professor at the University of Bath, points out that this is “a good opportunity for him to look like a politician,” while France is “only months away from the presidential election. This sets him apart from many other candidates who have such candidates.” There is very little experience in matters. ”
It also helps Macron highlight one of his main goals: to bring the EU closer together on issues such as defence, something that would have been impossible if the UK had not voted for his exit.
“It is no secret that Macron wants to build a pillar of the EU within NATO and the EU to have greater defense capability,” said Emmanuel Sean Quinlivan, professor of European policy at the University of Cork. “He is now able to use the AUKUS line to say that the EU cannot depend on the US or the UK.”
She also points out that, during the Brexit negotiation process, it was Macron who consistently took the hardest path with the UK and at times the biggest risk to the country exiting the economic bloc.
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“He’s arguably a better leader when he’s fighting an enemy,” Ford says. “After Brexit, the incentive is greater to insist on minor conflicts with France as the UK can no longer be punished within the framework of the EU.”
However, Ford points out that this could be wrong “if Macron wants to take revenge and fool Johnson.”
The most obvious area where he may attempt to punish Johnson is pressing the EU to take legal action over the UK’s failure to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“If France pressures the EU to take Britain to court and Britain retaliates by triggering Article 16 of the Protocol – allowing Britain to act unilaterally – that would represent a serious escalation of tensions.” ,” said Anand Menon, professor of European politics. King’s College London.
How likely are things to get out of hand?
Goodwill between Paris and London is currently limited.
And a bad relationship affects many important issues between neighbors.
The UK government is working with France to stop the flow of irregular migrants traveling across the English Channel.
Julian King, Britain’s former ambassador to France, says that without encouraging the French to “patrol those beaches with gusto”, crossing the English Channel “makes it much easier for people who travel to Britain”. I want to smuggle in”. This will be a problem for the government which has taken such a tough stand on migration.
He says that, in addition to inter-governmental bilateral issues such as defence, political disputes can spill over into a toxic environment in society at large, which in turn can lead to fights at the hands of any government – leading to fishermen. Boats collide with each other. Second, for example, with others at sea.
“It is not just in the UK that some are set to create bad feelings. Politicians on both sides should focus on lowering the temperature, not fanning the flames,” says King.
One result of the turmoil of the last five years in world politics is a strange dynamic of diplomatic competition in Europe.
Britain seeks to be the best friend of English speaking democracies outside the European Union, such as the US, Australia, Canada and others.
At the same time, the EU trying to build its own power base, while independent of the US, would force Washington and other global actors to take it seriously. Despite their best efforts, the 27 member states cannot agree on some of the most basic principles of this EU Milestone Two.
In this environment, artificial lines are indispensable—and, in some cases, even useful. Leaders should be careful and they should not allow anything big to happen by doing politics, harming themselves and others.
(translated text; read original in English)