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So the US is spying on France... quelle surprise! Holland threatens to torpedo vital trade talks over snooping 'revelations'
- Paris and Berlin are furious over claims the US bugged Eu countries
- Hollande suggested he may block free-trade deal worth £10billion to the UK
- Washington and Westminster have tried to play down European concerns
- According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the US targeted dozens of foreign embassies
PUBLISHED: 17:39 EST, 1 July 2013 | UPDATED: 01:28 EST, 2 July 2013
France has threatened to torpedo a free-trade deal between the US and Europe unless America stops spying on its allies.
Washington and Westminster tried to play down concerns over America’s surveillance programme – and insisted that it was no surprise that governments eavesdropped on each other.
However, Paris and Berlin remain furious over claims that the US’s National Security Agency bugged European Union offices and computers.
French President Francois Hollande has threatened to torpedo trade agreements that could be worth £10billion to the UK economy
France’s socialist president Francois Hollande suggested he would block a free-trade deal championed by David Cameron unless the US agreed to stop spying on its allies.
Despite this, Downing Street stressed that ‘the Prime Minister will continue to work towards the trade deal’. The agreement could be worth up to £10billion a year to the UK economy.
Barack Obama yesterday pledged to provide information about claims that the US bugged EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels.
According to documents leaked by former US spy Edward Snowden, the US targeted dozens of foreign embassies to eavesdrop on information, such as policy disagreements between EU member states.
Yesterday Mr Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, claimed America’s activities were ‘not unusual’ in international relations.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that it is not 'unusual' for countries to spy on each other in international relations
President Obama added that every government intelligence service is ‘trying to understand the world better and what’s going on in world capitals’.
‘I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders,’ he said. ‘That’s how intelligence services operate.’
Nick Clegg acknowledged ‘palpable disquiet’ in Europe’s capitals over the allegations of the NSA, and Britain’s listening centre GCHQ, eavesdropping on allies.
However, his Westminster colleagues were more relaxed. Conservative MP Mark Garnier said: ‘I have always assumed there was a bit of “sneaky-beaky” going on between governments. Any country is always going to want to try and keep aware of what is going on in other countries, even if they are friends.’
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier added: ‘Spies spy – why should we be surprised? When spies get found out everyone is always embarrassed but I don’t know why anyone is surprised.’ However, the Lib Dem chairman of the European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee, Sharon Bowles, said the controversy would harm the prospects for a trade deal.
She said upcoming talks ‘will certainly be under strain in the wake of this scandal’, adding: ‘There will be an enormous elephant in the room which will be impossible to ignore.’
Appearing on French television, Mr Hollande said: ‘We cannot accept this kind of behaviour from partners and allies.’
He suggested a pledge from the US to stop spying on its neighbours was necessary for the EU trade talks to continue, saying: ‘We can only have negotiations, transactions, in all areas, once we have obtained guarantees for France – but that goes for the whole European Union, and I would say for all partners of the United States.’ Germany has called its US ambassador to Berlin for urgent talks.
A spokesman for Angela Merkel said ‘bugging friends is unacceptable’, adding: ‘We are no longer in the Cold War,’
Martin Schulz, president of the EU Parliament, told French radio that the US had crossed a line.
He said: ‘I was always sure that dictatorships, some authoritarian systems, tried to listen ... but that measures like that are now practised by an ally, by a friend, that is shocking, in the case that it is true.’
The furore has led to the postponement of an unprecedented public grilling of the UK’s security and intelligence organisations.
The heads of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ had been due to appear before the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee this month, but will now appear in September at the earliest.