In September 2021, the UK, US and Australia launched a new trilateral defence partnership, known as AUKUS, with the aimes of increasing cooperation on security threats. The agreement will see Britain and the US provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. Brexit and the departure from the European Union means the UK is now free to strike its own deals with countries around the world as a sovereign nation.
At the time, Boris Johnson said: “We will have a new opportunity to reinforce Britain’s place at the leading edge of science and technology, strengthening our national expertise.
“And perhaps most significantly, the UK, Australia and the US will be joined even more closely together, reflecting the measure of trust between us, the depth of our friendship, and the enduring strength of our shared values of freedom and democracy”.
French President Emmanuel Macron was left furious by the AUKUS announcement as the trilateral agreement overrode a deal signed between Canberra and Paris.
A raging France – already at odds with Britain over various Brexit issues – called AUKUS a “stab in the back” and temporarily recalled its ambassadors from the US and Australia.
But now in an exclusive interview with the Daily Express, Mr Johnson, who has entered the final week in his near-three year premiership, said: “The idea that we’ve done AUKUS before Brexit is crazy. You know, we would never have done it.”
The outgoing Prime Minister said Britain is “standing up in the world, never mind just leading the free world on trade,” and that Britain has “started the whole movement of free trade deals”, adding “dozens and dozens of them” have been struck.
Mr Johnson said he is “very proud” of the AUKUS agreement struck with the US and Australia, describing the trio of countries involved as “likeminded powers”.
He said: “Look at what we are doing with AUKUS defence pact. I’m very proud that we came to an agreement with the Australians, for the Americans, to share technology, not just the submarines, but to build a platform for industrial and technological cooperation between these three likeminded superpowers.
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The new partnership will see the Royal Australian Navy will train on HMS Anson and the quartet of new, Astute-class attack submarines for the Royal Navy alongside British crews.
The MoD said the training and exchanges “mark the beginning of a multigenerational naval partnership between the three AUKUS nations”.
Mr Johnson said: “HMS Anson is the perfect example of where levelling up the UK and generating jobs, skills and growth across our country goes hand-in-glove with global Britain.
“From the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea, our submarine service is protecting the UK and our allies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the deployment of Australian submariners alongside our British crews epitomises the strength of the AUKUS partnership.”
He added the submarine would be a “guarantor of peace” rather than a “weapon of war” and said he hoped it would “be used to help keep people safe across the whole of the Pacific region”.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also said: “Today is a significant milestone in the UK and Australia’s preparation to confront growing threats to the liberal democratic order, especially in the Indo Pacific.”