David Cameron upset a lot of countries during his trip retracing the old Silk Road from Turkey to India.
His reference to Gaza being a “prison camp” infuriated Israel, while Pakistan were certainly unhappy about being accused of “looking both ways” on terror.
What we did not know was that the country taking greatest offence was probably France.
Nicolas Sarkozy was incensed by Cameron, during a speech in Ankara, comparing French opposition to Turkish membership of the European Union to General de Gaulle’s veto of UK membership in 1963.
Cameron’s claim that he was “angry” about Turkey’s bid being blocked went down particularly badly with the Elysée.
The diplomatic fallout was considerable.
Sarkozy’s team summoned Sir Peter Westmacott, the Paris ambassador, and demanded a written formal apology from Downing Street. Downing Street declined, but one official told the FT the episode was “a bit hairy”. Read more
One of the last places in Britain you’d think of hosting next week’s Anglo-French summit is aboard the HMS Ark Royal, the Royal Navy flagship that was abruptly decommissioned in the defence review.
But, incredible as it sounds, someone in Downing Street thought this idea was worth investigating.
For a couple of weeks, officials in Paris and London were busily working on a plan to bring Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron together on the deck of a carrier.
Team Cameron thought it would provide a splendid backdrop that emphasised the strengthened Anglo-French military ties.
But finding the right spot proved tricky.
The most practical option was Ark Royal, which is based in Portsmouth. With impeccable timing, I’m told the Downing Street location scouts paid a visit within days of the Ark Royal crew being told the ship was to be scrapped. Cameron’s emissaries were, understandably, not given the warmest reception.
If this mini-blunder does highlight anything, it is the weakness of Cameron’s position. Read more