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Military chief quits in a war of words over Emmanuel Macron’s cuts

Grievances on parade: Emmanuel Macron with General Pierre de Villiers at last week’s Bastille Day celebrations PICTURE: AP

THE most senior military officer in France has resigned after an unprecedented public row with the president over £750million worth of defence cuts.

General Pierre De Villiers even posted critical comments on Facebook, prompting Emmanuel Macron to say he should ‘respect the chain of command and keep his opinions to himself’.

The general, 61, said the cuts meant he could no longer ‘guarantee the protection of France and French people’. He handed in his resignation yesterday.

Mr Macron’s biggest political crisis to date highlights the problems he is having as he tries to make £53billion worth of EU austerity savings while also keeping an election pledge to cut taxes.

Last week the 39-year-old president, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said he wanted to cut the defence budget to help bring France’s deficit below the EU limit of three per cent of gross domestic product.

General de Villiers told a parliamentary committee: ‘I may be stupid, but I know when I’m being had.’ He then posted on Facebook that ‘no one deserves to be followed blindly’.

His comments broke a long-respected convention against military leaders having public rows with politicians.

During last week’s Bastille Day parade Mr Macron reminded the army that ‘I am your leader’. But even members of his own En Marche! party have criticised the cuts. Jacques Bridey, chairman of the defence committee, said they would cause a huge drop in morale ‘while our men risk their lives every day’.