NABILA RAMDANI: Le humiliation as my pompous president takes a dive

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To say the French are furious about being elbowed out of a lucrative contract to supply submarines to Australia is the understatement of the year. 

They are incandescent.

Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday that he felt he had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by Washington and London over the ‘unacceptable’ deal that means the loss of the £48billion order to build 12 diesel-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.

We can only imagine how president Emmanuel Macron – who sees himself as a cross between Napoleon and Jupiter, the supreme Roman god – must be feeling.

After all, it was only in June that Macron hosted Australian prime minister Scott Morrison at the Elysee Palace. 

But now Macron finds his country not only billions of pounds short – but also locked out of a key initiative by Western powers to build a bulwark against China.

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It is a deeply humiliating development for the leader of the EU’s only nuclear state which has one of the biggest military-industrial complexes in the world.

You Britons would not be human, of course, if you didn’t feel some smidgeon of schadenfreude at president Macron’s predicament. 

His loathing of Brexit – he once described the UK’s decision to leave the EU as a ‘crime’ – has turned him into one of your most troublesome ‘allies’.

At times, his fits of pique have seen him guilty of outrageous calumny.

Infuriated by Britain’s successful Covid vaccine rollout – while France and the rest of the EU were scrabbling to acquire supplies – he wrongly suggested that the UK’s AstraZeneca jab was ‘quasi-ineffective’ among the over-65s.

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But after observing the catastrophic effect this had on vaccine confidence in Europe, he performed a spectacular U-turn, announcing he would go to court to prevent AstraZeneca supplies manufactured in the EU being exported to the UK.

Mr Macron has also been one of the most vocal European leaders to insist that the UK must stick to the letter of the Northern Ireland Protocol, despite the obvious difficulties it was creating, not least in terms of peace and stability in the province.

Now it is the French president’s standing that has been undermined. 

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The Australian contract represented not just a huge boost for the French economy but also tallied with how tall Macron felt his country should stand on the world stage.

In 2018, a year after he came to power, Macron used a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos to declare – in English: ‘France is back!’

Those words ring rather hollow today.

Nabila Ramdani is a French-Algerian journalist, broadcaster and academic specialising in Anglo-French issue. 

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