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A UK government minister has blamed the “pantomime season” and upcoming French election for “unhelpful” remarks allegedly made by President Emmanuel Macron about the British prime minister.

According to the weekly satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, President Macron recently called Boris Johnson “a clown” and a “proud knucklehead”.

I think we are in pantomime season, aren’t we, and there is a French election coming. It is a pretty unhelpful word. Of course, the prime minister is not a clown, he is the elected prime minister of this country with a very big mandate, leading this country through a pandemic,” Science Minister George Freeman told Sky News.

He noted that the UK is looking to work with France “very closely” on a number of issues, including border control.

I am confident that actually Anglo-French relations are rather better than that quote suggests,” the minister said.

There has been no reaction so far from Johnson to the French president’s alleged remarks.

Recent tensions between the UK and France have bubbled up over fishing licenses, migrant crossings, Brexit and the AUKUS submarine deal.

Johnson was also criticized by the French for publishing a recent letter of his to Macron on social media, prompting Paris to take action by withdrawing an invitation to Home Secretary Priti Patel to a meeting in Calais.

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