Wed, 26 Jan 2022

Brussels [Belgium], December 3 (ANI/Sputnik): If reports of French President Emmanuel Macron calling UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson a clown is true, than it is nothing new, as difficult personal relations between the world leaders are a common occurrence, with the Macron-Johnson spat being the latest example, Pierre Vercauteren, a political scientist from UCLouvain university in Belgium, told Sputnik.

On Thursday, Sky News reported that Macron called Johnson a clown and compared his behavior in politics to a circus during his visit to Croatia on November 24-25, citing French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine.

A falling out between the two countries resulted from the long Brexit negotiations which brought Johnson to power, but left some unresolved problems, such as the Irish border and European fishing rights in British waters. Relations soured further after thousands of illegal migrants recently crossed the Channel on boats from France and flooded the United Kingdom, followed by rumors of personal disagreements between the two leaders. The disagreements culminated in Macron's alleged outburst.

"We have strictly no proof that Emmanuel Macron declared Boris Johnson to be a 'clown,' but their difficult relations have been known for some time. The slightly arrogant French president and the easygoing 'BoJo' [Boris Johnson] have disagreed on several major issues lately. Boris Johnson defends Brexit, while Macron considers it a bad mistake," Vercauteren said.

Macron has been very critical of the UK due to disruptions caused by Brexit, the expert noted. Another cause for the French president's discontent was the loss of a large contract for 12 French submarines with Australia, in which London played a crucial role, Vercauteren said.

The submarine issue became the most severe in a series of recent disagreements between the two countries, leading to a rise in tensions. The AUKUS deal, negotiated behind Macron's back between the US, the UK and Australia, snatched the multibillion dollar contract away from Paris and made the French leadership look incompetent. At first, Johnson tried to appease France, but soon changed the rhetoric, further alienating Paris.

"Johnson actually said, with a deep sigh, that 'it is time for our best friends in the world [France] to get a grip on all this... Give me a break!' said Boris Johnson, 'because it is fundamentally a great step forward for the security of the world.' This remark could have really personally hurt president Macron and could have been the beginning of the worsening of relations," the expert said.

The fishing rights issue, which has been going on for quite some time already, has also added to the tensions with the sides voicing reciprocal threats, according to Vercauteren. As such, Macron threatened to cut power to the British Isles of Jersey and Guernsey. However, this particular issue is on the way toward resolution, the expert added, since the UK granted 40 licenses to the 50 French fishing vessels which requested them.

The Northern Ireland Protocol and border issues with the Republic of Ireland remain, but they took a backseat due to the more pressing problem of illegal crossings of the Channel by small boats filled with migrants, Vercauteren said. He stressed that is in both countries' best interest to work jointly on the matter, but so far it does not look as if they will.

Johnson published a letter urging France to take back the migrants that had reached the English coast, to which Macron responded by organizing a meeting with the interior ministers of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, without inviting the UK to the table, the expert said.

"French Minister Darmanin even made a nasty remark about Britain's double standards. It does not help. We can nevertheless hope that the dialogue will resume and that the fight will be strengthened jointly against the smugglers who exploit migrants," Vercauteren concluded. (ANI/Sputnik)

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