Margaret Thatcher gave Francois Mitterand a good bollocking after the Poms found out that the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys were trying to smuggle Exocets into Argentina at the height of the Falklands war:
Margaret Thatcher warned that Britain’s relationship with France would suffer a “devastating” blow if the latter allowed Exocet missiles to be smuggled to Argentina during the Falklands War.
In a secret telegram to French president Francois Mitterand, the Prime Minister even cast doubt on the future of the Nato alliance, should he fail to stop shipments of the anti-ship missile, then being used with awful effect against Britain’s task force in the South Atlantic.
The sea-skimming Exocet was the most feared weapon in the Argentinian armoury, accounting for the destroyer Sheffield and the container ship Atlantic Conveyor, and posing a mortal threat to Operation Corporate, the mission to recover the Falklands.
Fortunately for Britain, only five of the missiles, manufactured by France’s Aerospatiale, had been delivered before the invasion of the islands on April 2 1982.
One had been used up in training and following the attacks on Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor just one was left. The junta was desperate for more.
Files released at the National Archives in Kew today convey Whitehall’s desperation to stem the flow of Exocets, even to the extent of considering an attack on a suspected shipment in neutral Brazil.
So febrile was the atmosphere that the Attorney-General, Sir Michael Havers, suggested his own “James Bond” plan to deal with the threat.
Thatcher’s broadside to Mitterand came on May 29, four days after the sinking of Atlantic Conveyor and her cargo of troop-carrying helicopters considered vital to the British advance on Port Stanley.
The French president had telephoned the Prime Minister to say that Peru, an ally of Argentina, was pressuring his country to deliver a batch of Exocets ordered before the war.
The British were in no doubt about the true destination of the missiles and Thatcher made it clear that the French would pay dearly for putting their reputation as a reliable arms supplier before the Anglo-French alliance.