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BBC broadcaster Andrew Neil was this afternoon involved in an online spat with Guido Fawkes after the right-wing group claimed the cost of Boris Johnson’s plane would amount to “hundreds of millions”. In a post on Twitter, the political activists’ also said Emmanuel Macron travelled around the world in an Air France plane rather than his own personal aircraft.
Mr Neil, 71, responded online by stating the French President had his own modified Airbus A320-200 worth £215m ($270m) at his disposal – which included a number of state-of-the-art features including a command centre.
The veteran broadcaster then listed a further nine Ministry of Defence aircrafts and three helicopters that are available to Mr Macron and French Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe.
Responding on social media, Mr Neil said: “The French President does NOT fly Air France!
“He has his own specially modified $270m Airbus A320-200 with its own command centre, message encryption and sound proof conference room.
“Two Dassult Falcon 7Xs are also part of presidential fleet for shorter trips.”
Moments later in a second post, he added: “Make that an Airbus 330-200.
“A unit of French Air Force, under direct command of Minister of Defence has 4 Dassault Falcon 50s, 2 Dassault Falcon 900s, 2 Dassault Falcon 7Xs and the Airbus.
“Plus 3 VIP-configured Super Puma helicopters. All for President and his PM.”
The online political blogging site Guido Fawkes, then hit back and insisted it had changed its initial post.
They replied by saying: “Had already corrected that. BUT THANKS FOR POINTING IT OUT. Again.”
In a final tweet on the matter, Mr Neil then further clarified his position to leave no doubt about the situation.
He wrote: “MY PLEASURE. Maybe by now you know the French President has nine planes and three helicopters at his disposal.
“It’s his own Air France, provided by French Air Force. YOUR WELCOME.”
The dispute came after Downing Street confirmed a military plane to be used by the Prime Minster and the Royal Family for overseen trips will be painted red, white and blue.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the RAF Voyager will be decorated in the colours of the Union Jag to better represent the UK around the world”.
Downing Street also confirmed the patriotic paint-job will cost taxpayers £900,000.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The RAF Voyager used by the Royal Family and the Prime Minister is currently in Cambridgeshire for pre-planned repainting.
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“This will mean that the plane can better represent the UK around the world with national branding, similar to many other leaders’ planes, while also retaining its military air-to-air refuelling capability.”
Mr Johnson’s spokesman also defended the £900,000 cost, he said: “That incorporates the cost of creating a design that will promote the UK around the world without compromising the plane’s vital military role.
“At every stage we have worked to ensure value for money for the UK taxpayer and all of the work has been undertaken in the UK, directly benefiting British suppliers.”
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