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Europe, US must stand together, says UK chancellor in wake of Macron’s China comments

Europe, US must stand together, says UK chancellor in wake of Macron’s China comments

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WASHINGTON — History shows Europe and the United States need to “stand together” to defend “democracy and freedom,” U.K. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said, after French President Emmanuel Macron warned against becoming ensnared in a U.S.-China dispute over Taiwan.

Speaking to POLITICO on the sidelines of this week’s spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, Hunt signaled that the U.K. isn’t interested in breaking with the U.S. on geopolitics — days after the French president called for Europe to bolster its autonomy from Washington.

“Ukraine stands free and independent today, because of leadership by the United States,” said Hunt, who talked up the “complete unity in Europe” that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

“That says to me one very simple thing: that when Europe and the United States stand together, we can successfully defend democracy and freedom around the world,” Hunt added.

“And that to me isn’t just the big lesson of the last year, but it’s actually the big lesson of the last 100 years as well.”

Hunt’s comments follow a trip to China by Macron, during which he told POLITICO that Europe must resist becoming  “America’s followers” and doubled down on his call for “strategic autonomy” for the bloc.

Macron said: “The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No. The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”

China claims the self-governing Taiwan as its territory but the U.S. has promised to arm and defend it.

Macron’s comments have already drawn anger from China hawks in Europe, with one global group of lawmakers saying he was “severely out of step with the feeling across Europe’s legislatures and beyond.” Hunt’s old boss, U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss, on Wednesday accused Macron of claiming “moral equivalence” between the U.S. and China.

Hunt said he saw the need for Europe “to invest more in its own defense,” and argued that it was not sustainable “in the long run for Europe to say that we’re going to depend on American taxpayers to fund a third to a half of our defense needs in Europe.”

But he urged European countries to bolster their own defenses in a way “that is working hand in glove with other countries that share our democratic values — the leading one of those is the United States.”

The U.K. finance minister’s remarks came as his boss Rishi Sunak said the U.K. remained “completely aligned with our allies” on China as he was pressed on the Macron row.

“If you look at the approach of our closest allies on this, whether it’s Canada, whether it’s Japan, whether it’s Australia or the U.S., our approach to this question is exactly the same,” he told the Conservative Home website.

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