Joe Biden admits to France's Emmanuel Macron handling of defence deal was 'clumsy'

It will be hard to hide the current distrust between the US and France at the meeting Credit: AP

There will be more flowery diplomatic ways to describe the meeting between President Biden and President Macron but in common parlance this was a “grip and grin” moment for the cameras.

All eyes and teeth, nothing to see here, we’re just a couple of old mates catching up after a bit of spat.

That spat was quite a big one though, especially between allies.

The AUKUS deal for submarines between the US, the UK and Australia torpedoed an earlier agreement with France to supply Australia with $90bn worth of crafts.

In fury, the French withdrew their ambassadors from the US and Australia with much talk of deceitful behaviour by supposed friends.

Tensions are still high between France and the US Credit: AP

While there have been many attempts since to smooth ruffled French feathers it was a body blow for President Macron, a year ahead of elections, and pretty dire for US-French relations.

The meeting between Biden and Macron is the highest level attempt to calm things but the French haven’t got much from it apart from a presidential acknowledgement that the whole thing had been “clumsy”.

One diplomat I spoke with this week warned patience with French indignity is wearing thin. Would there be a diplomatic lollipop to offer? Not on the scale they would like, I was told.

In fact, the meeting was likened to a schoolchild failing to win the big prize for their work but being given a quick handshake with the headmaster at the ceremony to make them feel better.

Of course, there was big talk of diplomatic unity but little more.

"The Biden visit itself is the prize," I’m told. Stand by for the big spin to make it appear something more than the booby prize.