French President Emmanuel Macron has hit back at Liz Truss after she questioned whether he was a friend of the United Kingdom.
Speaking to Tory members on Thursday evening, the foreign secretary said the “jury’s out” on whether Macron was “friend or foe”.
Labour warned that Truss’s comment, which could be seen to risk straining tensions with France, showed a “terrible and worrying lack of judgment”.
Former Conservative minister Gavin Barwell also questioned the remark, tweeting: “You would have thought the foreign secretary was aware we are in a military alliance with France.”
Asked about Truss’ comments in an interview with French TV, Macron said: “The United Kingdom is a friendly nation, regardless of its leaders, and sometimes in spite of its leaders.
He added: “Words have a meaning: friend, foe.”
“If France and Britain cannot say whether they are friends or enemies,” Macron said. “Then we are headed for serious problems.”
During the leadership hustings last night, Truss was asked: “President Macron, friend or foe?”
“The jury’s out,” she responded to loud applause. “But if I become prime minister, I would judge him on deeds, not words.”
Rishi Sunak, Truss’ rival in the contest, had answered “friend” when asked the same question.
Nadhim Zahawi, the current chancellor who is backing Truss, defended the foreign secretary’s intervention as “light-hearted” with “a touch of humour”.
“Stating the obvious, France is one of our closest strategic allies in defence and security, of course, in our effort to face down Putin in his illegal invasion of a free and democratic country in Ukraine,” he said.
“We like people to judge us on our actions, on our deeds, not words. And I think it is right that we also hold our allies to that very high standard.”
He continued: “Liz and I both know that France is a strategic ally in defence, cyber, in our war effort in helping Ukraine, all these things we work very closely together.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.