French ‘subsidise Royal Navy’s new carriers’

A section of HMS Prince of Wales under construction in Portsmouth
A section of HMS Prince of Wales under construction in Portsmouth
HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth            Picture: PA

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FRENCH taxpayers have subsidised the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, it was claimed today.

It is estimated the French have paid out between €100m (£82m) to more than €200m as a subsidy for HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, The I reports.

The newspaper says it comes after former prime minister Tony Blair and then-President Jacques Chirac signed a defence co-operation agreement in 2006.

The French public spending watchdog spotted the loss in the details of the 2013 French defence estimates.

Cour des Comptes says the deal led to ‘a French contribution pure and simple to the financing of [two] British aircraft-carriers in their early development phase.’

Originally Britain and France had agreed in principle to co-operate with building the new ships, with Britian building two and France one.

The two differed over the designs but under the 2006 deal France paid €102m to look at development work done by Britain.

Then it forked out another €112m over the next two years before President Nicolas Sarkozy cancelled the plan to build a carrier in 2008.