Conservative Party conference 2021: France should be brought into second stage of AUKUS pact, says senior Tory MP Tom Tugendhat

France should be brought into the second stage of the AUKUS security pact despite their furious reaction to losing a submarine deal, a senior Conservative MP has said.

Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chair of the House of Commons’ foreign affairs committee, told a Conservative conference fringe event that Western allies needed to find a way “to help the French climb down” from their anger.

Following the announcement of the security programme between the US, Australia and UK, France recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia as part of a diplomatic row.

French President Emmanuel Macron was furious that the AUKUS pact led to his country losing a multi-billion euro submarine deal with Australia, who ditched the deal with Paris in favour of a new nuclear submarine partnership with Washington and London.

“I think France massively over-reacted on a whole series of different levels,” Mr Tugendhat told the Young Conservatives event at the Tories’ conference in Manchester on Tuesday.

“Finding a way to help the French to climb down – possibly not until after the [French presidential] election in May – is going to be very important because we do need France’s contribution.

“They can be difficult – as somebody who is married to a French wife I can tell you it’s not always an easy relationship but it’s well worth it in the end!”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who held talks with US President Joe Biden about the new security pact in Washington DC last month, has ruled out France and other countries joining AUKUS.

But Mr Tugendhat said more nations should be brought into the pact as it develops.

“I think it’s an enormously important agreement and the submarine bit is quite literally only the first step,” he added.

“The reality is if AUKUS ends as being a submarine deal it will have ended as a failure. What it needs to be is the next bit as well which is an investment in technology, quantum AI and all the rest of it that we’re going to see over years to come.

“I hope in that second stage that we actually start bringing in other countries too – countries like Japan, Germany, yes France too – to make sure that the technology that we need to share in order to develop the defences we all need as free democratic states, we do so together and make sure we’re all standing together.”

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