Britain and France on verge of ambitious defence partnership

Feb 16, 2009
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Britain and France are on Tuesday to announce an unprecedented partnership on defence in a bid to allow two medium-sized powers to remain global players, officials and diplomats say.

Economic austerity appears to have achieved what years of diplomacy have failed to do by forcing the historic rivals to work together.

President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed their determination to open a new chapter in cooperation, although officials from both countries stress that national sovereignty will be preserved.

At the Franco-British summit in London on Tuesday, "this relationship will be taken to a new level -- the closest it has ever been," British Defence Secretary Liam Fox wrote in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

He said the aim was to strengthen the relationship "at all levels", from joint training to the acquisition of equipment and technology and information sharing, but added: "We will maintain an autonomous capability."

A deal has been in the offing for some time. Sarkozy said this year he was ready to remove "taboos" and consider "concrete projects" to work with Britain.

That aim was firmed up when Cameron's coalition government published a defence review earlier this month against the backdrop of a deep programme of cuts in public spending to tackle a record budget deficit.

The document says Britain intended to remain a "global player" despite cuts of up to eight percent to the Ministry of Defence's budget, and describes France as "one of the UK's main strategic partners".

Military officials and diplomats from both sides of the English Channel say this means a new era of cooperation in the search for "economies of scale".

Britain and France together account for 50 percent of Europe's operational capability, 45 percent of the continent's defence budget and 70 percent of the research and development crucial to fight the wars of the future.

Paris and London are however keen to reject any notion that their armed forces will become inter-dependent -- especially in the highly sensitive area of nuclear weapons.

In the name of "improved inter-operability" cooperation, British and French pilots would train on each others' carriers, the Charles de Gaulle and Queen Elizabeth, by 2016-220.

Among other topics, officials have also mentioned the possibility of cooperating on the training of crews and the maintenance of A400M transport aircraft as well as synchronising nuclear submarine patrols.

This conveniently overlooks the acutely embarrassing collision last year between a French and British submarine in the North Atlantic.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin is treading carefully, stressing scenarios where both countries would "disengage" in the event of "a conflict or a crisis where our respective interests diverge".

France rejected taking part in the invasion of Iraq, with then president Jacques Chirac sharply critical of Tony Blair's decision to commit British troops to the war.

Sceptics recall that 12 years ago, Blair and Chirac hailed their intention to cooperate on defence, but little came of it. The proposed joint construction of an aircraft carrier and a frigate were among projects that failed to see the light of day.

Etienne de Durand, of France's Institute of International Relations (IFRI), said the countries' defence strategies have developed along sharply different lines.

While France has committed itself to building a European defence capability, Britain continues to favour its so-called "special relationship" with the United States.

But "the economic crisis has accelerated a rapprochement," de Durand noted.

"If nothing is done, they will shrink beyond repair in volume and critical capabilities," he said. The choice "is between entente or oblivion".

Robin Niblett, director of the London-based foreign affairs think tank Chatham House, told AFP: "The time is ripe because the money really isn't there any more.

"The UK wants to be global. And cannot afford to be. Perhaps Britain and France can back each other up a bit as the principal two countries that can be taken seriously (in Europe)."


Jul 1, 2009
In short, they will keep each others boomers out the way and share A400M parts. So much for entente. :happy_2:


Senior Member
Jun 23, 2010
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UK and France agree to joint nuclear weapons tests

The UK and France are to sign a treaty agreeing to the joint development and testing of nuclear warheads.

The plans will see one centre set up in the UK to develop technology and another in France to carry out testing.

Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy will also outline plans, at a London summit, for a joint army expeditionary force.

Downing Street called the measures "practical", but Labour said they left "big questions" over the UK's defences.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "This summit marks a deepening of the UK-France bilateral relationship. Ours is now a strategic partnership tackling together the biggest challenges facing our two countries."

The summit comes two weeks after the UK government announced cuts to its armed forces, in the first strategic defence review since 1998, as part of savings aimed at reducing the country's budget deficit.

Under the plans, £750m will be saved over four years on the Trident nuclear missile system by cutting the number of warheads.

Harrier jump jets, the Navy's flagship HMS Ark Royal and planned Nimrod spy planes will also be axed, but two new aircraft carriers were spared.

Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy are to sign two treaties - one on greater general military co-operation and the other on nuclear weapons

Operational veto
The latter will establish a centre in the UK to develop technology and another one in France to carry out the testing.

It is understood that each country will still control its own warheads, and that nuclear secrets will not be shared.

The other treaty will allow the setting up of a "combined joint expeditionary force", thought to involve a brigade of about 5,000 soldiers from each side.

Each country will retain a veto for each operation, which will operate under one military commander to be chosen at the time.

The UK and France have also agreed to keep at least one aircraft carrier at sea between them at any one time.

Each will be able to use the other's carrier in some form, certainly for training and possibly operations.

Meanwhile, France is to use British A400M fuelling aircraft when there is spare capacity, with plans in place for common maintenance and training.

'Deepening ties'
Joint work on drones, mine counter-measures and satellite communications is also proposed.

In a statement, the French presidency said the test centre in Valduc, eastern France, would start operations in 2014.

The Valduc laboratory would work with a French-British research centre based in Aldermaston, Berkshire, it added.

Together the facilities would involve "several dozen" French and British experts and cost both countries several million euros.

It said scientists from both countries would be able to ensure the "viability, safety and security in the long term of our nuclear arsenals".

Mr Cameron told MPs on Monday: "I do seriously believe that this link-up with the French over defence is in the long term interests of both our countries.

"And to those who worry that this might in some way lead to... European armies, that is not the point. The point is to enhance sovereign capability by two like-minded countries being able to work together."

The UK's shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "I support the government's emphasis on international co-operation, taking forward the good work of the last government.

"We share common threats with countries such as France, from terrorism to privacy to cyber-attack. Deepening military ties is an essential part of modern defence policy.

"Interdependence, however, is different from dependence, and binding legal treaties pose some big questions for the government."

Mr Murphy also questioned whether the the UK was entering "an era where we are reliant on our allies to fill in the gaps in the government's


The Chairman
Apr 17, 2009
David Cameron plans for British and French troops to serve in single brigade | UK news | The Guardian

David Cameron will tomorrow outline plans for unprecedented military co-operation between London and Paris that will see British and French troops deployed as a single brigade in future conflicts.

Amid rising concerns among Eurosceptic Tories about a Anglo-French military treaty, to be signed at Lancaster House on Tuesday, the prime minister is expected to tell MPs that the co-operation derives from a "hard-headed" assessment of Britain's national interest.

Cameron will reach out to his party's Eurosceptics when he outlines the treaty at the end of a parliamentary statement on last week's European summit in Brussels. The centrepiece of the agreement, which will see all branches of the armed forces working together, will be plans for the French and British armies to be deployed in a single brigade. The first step will be a joint exercise in Flanders which is to be followed by more training together with the aim of deploying troops "alongside each other", in the words of one government source.

"Working together with France on defence makes good practical sense," a senior government source said . "This is about two sovereign countries working together based on a hard-headed assessment of what is in the British national interest."

Anglo-French military co-operation will be controversial for the prime minister because the Tories criticised the St Malo declaration signed by Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac in 1998. But Downing Street says that St Malo was about co-operation under the European security and defence policy, while the treaty is about bilateral co-operation between France and Britain.

Cameron will be at pains tomorrow to reassure Tory Eurosceptics that the Nato alliance remains the bedrock of British defence policy. But he is expected to tell MPs that the French president Nicolas Sarkozy's decision last year to reintegrate France fully into Nato – 43 years after Charles de Gaulle withdrew from the central military command – makes co-operation easier.

The prime minister will also make clear that Britain and France will stop short of full integration because there will be times when the interests of Paris and London diverge. France strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq.

The French and British armies have been involved in the same military operations before. British forces in Bosnia served under the command of the French general, Philippe Morillon. But he was a UN commander.

Cameron and Sarkozy are drawing up plans for British and French troops, with the support of their navies and air forces, to be deployed together. "You could see the French and the British deploying together in African countries where Britain and France have shared interests," one government source said of the plans that could see joint deployments in the future equivalent of the British operation in Sierra Leone in 1999, frequent French interventions in Chad and the operations in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s.

The Anglo-French summit on Tuesday caps a week of intense European activity for the prime minister. It began last Thursday with the European summit in Brussels where he won agreement that future rises in EU spending should be linked to national budgets. In return the prime minister agreed to Germany's demand for a modest treaty revision to underpin future bailouts of ailing eurozone countries.

Over the weekend, the prime minister hosted Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, at Chequers. They agreed to establish a new trade experts' group, to be co-sponsored by Turkey and Indonesia, that will examine ways of reviving the Doha round of trade talks.The group is to be co-chaired by Peter Sutherland, the first director general of the World Trade Organisation, and Professor Jagdish Bhagwati, the intellectual father of India's liberalising economic reforms.
A practical solution to a tight economic situation.

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