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Boris Johnson makes surprise visit to see Australia’s Richard Marles


Barrow: Boris Johnson has made a surprise and unannounced visit to England’s north to personally meet Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles and attend the commissioning of Britain’s newest Astute class submarine HMS Anson.

Marles, who’s also the deputy prime minister, was only due to meet his counterpart, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in Barrow after inspecting the shipyards in Glasgow, where the Type 26 frigates Australia is also acquiring are being built.

Boris Johnson and Richard Marles at BAE Systems’ training academy in Barrow on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson and Richard Marles at BAE Systems’ training academy in Barrow on Wednesday.Credit:Latika Bourke

He had left London off his itinerary and pointed to the Tory party’s leadership instability as one of the reasons why no Australian minister has visited the UK since Labor’s election victory, despite the critical AUKUS negotiations underway.

But Johnson decided on Wednesday morning to make his way to meet Marles in one of his last acts as prime minister. He will be replaced on Monday by either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss.

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Johnson and Marles toured BAE Systems’ academy – where apprentices are trained to build submarines – before attending the commissioning of HMS Anson, the fifth of Britain’s new submarine fleet which will total seven boats.

Australia is acquiring nuclear submarine technology from Britain and the US as part of the AUKUS agreement and could buy a first boat from either country.

Johnson signed off on the agreement on behalf of Britain and has been one of the UK government’s biggest enthusiasts for closer ties with Australia.

But Johnson’s visit to see the new Labor deputy prime minister is a testament to how seriously the Conservative government views its stronger trading and security ties with Australia.



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