French President Emmanuel Macron waits for guests to leave at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Photo: Reuters / Philippe Wojazer

France’s General Pierre De Villiers submitted his resignation on Wednesday after a public spat with President Macron over proposed budget cuts to military spending.

De Villiers said he no longer felt able to command the sort of army “that I think is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people”, reports the Local.

Following the release of a plan to cut 850 million euros from defense spending, De Villiers told a parliamentary committee “I won’t let you screw me like that” (Je ne me laisserai pas baiser comme ça).

“It is not dignified to hold certain debates in the public arena,” Macron hit back during a speech to the defense ministry present with de Villiers clearly in mind. Macron added he will go ahead with the budget cuts, and “I don’t need pressure or commentary”.

The Financial Times reports Wednesday that the teachers unions and local governments are also pushing back. Union leaders were quoted as saying that a target of an additional 13 billion euros of cuts to higher education and research funding was “unacceptable” and “unprecedented”.

A backlash against budget cuts was to be expected in France, but for the first shots to be fired from the military is unusual, and a sign that Macron should be prepared to be hit from both ends of the political spectrum.

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