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Ex-Australian PM feared Macron would ‘kill’ Aukus deal if he found out

Scott Morrison hid plans to team up with US and UK and ditch French submarine contract, new book reveals

Scott Morrison, the former prime minister of Australia, has admitted keeping the Aukus submarine deal a secret from Emmanuel Macron because he feared the French president would “kill it” if he found out.

His plans to hide the 2021 security pact between Australia, the UK and the United States were revealed in leaked extracts of an upcoming book.

The deal resulted in Mr Morrison ditching a deal with France to build 12 conventionally powered submarines for Australia in favour of procuring nuclear vessels from the US and UK.

The shock U-turn sunk a $36.5 billion (£20 billion) “contract of the century” with France’s Naval Group,

At the time, Paris described the revelation as a “stab in the back” and withdrew its ambassador from Australia in protest.

“Our strategy was that if we are going to do this, we can’t let it lead to the French knowing – in case that damages the French deal. So, we had to build Chinese walls – pardon the pun – around our discussions,” Mr Morrison is said.

macron morrison
Emmanuel Macron, left, shakes hands with Scott Morrison during a meeting in 2018 CREDIT: LUDOVIC MARIN/afp

His comments come from the new book “The Secret History of The Five Eyes” by journalist Richard Kerbaj.

Concerned about production delays and a growing security threat from China in the Indo-Pacific, Mr Morrison said he realised that “if there was ever a time to have a crack at getting nuclear-powered subs, it was either now or never”.

In one anecdote, he describes how an oblivious Mr Macron approached him to discuss the submarine contract as he emerged from a secret meeting on the new deal with Joe Biden, the US president, and Boris Johnson, the former British prime minister, on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in June 2021.

At a dinner between the two at the Elysee Palace a few days later, Mr Morrison said he was “pretty clear” about his concerns over the submarine deal.

“Not telling him is not the same as lying to him,” he told Kerbaj.

“I think Emmanuel thought I was… seeking leverage on the contract. Maybe he thought I was bluffing.” 

A key reason Mr Morrison did not inform Mr Macron of his change of plan was the fear that the US and Britain would pull out of the deal to appease the French, he said.

He would not give France time to “kill the arrangement that we have with you, and then we stand left there with nothing”,” he said.

On the eve of the trilateral Aukus announcement, he finally sent a letter to Mr Macron informing him they were terminating the submarine contract, but feared the French president still had time to undermine the new deal.

“I would say it was the most sleepless night I had in my entire prime ministership,” said Mr Morrison, citing the “unpredictability” of the close relationship between Washington and Paris.

As for his decision to break the contract and deceive Paris, he said: “I don’t regret it for a minute.”

On Monday, Australia announced it would buy up to five US nuclear-powered submarines, then build a new model with US and British technology, prompting Beijing to warn the Aukus alliance was treading a “path of error and danger”.

Source : The Telegraph