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UK and France to sign “close-cooperation” defence agreement

Monday, November 1st 2010 - 16:46 UTC
Full article 16 comments
“Oui, mon commandant, tous ensemble” Cameron and Sarkozy  “Oui, mon commandant, tous ensemble” Cameron and Sarkozy

The new head of the British armed forces has said it makes “absolute sense” for the United Kingdom and France to work together on defence, ahead of a summit on Tuesday. PM David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are expected to sign a defence treaty improving collaboration between the two countries.

General Sir David Richards said it was a return to the “very close co-operation” seen during the Cold War. But he played down reports troops could be deployed as a single brigade.

The summit comes weeks after Mr Cameron announced wide-ranging cuts to the armed forces in the first strategic defence review since 1998. The Ministry of Defence, like most other government departments, has seen its budget cut as the government tries to tackle the budget deficit.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the Sunday Telegraph it made “little sense for the two most powerful militaries in Europe to spend more than necessary on duplicate capabilities, which could be delivered in a more cost-effective manner”.

He said the summit on Tuesday would focus on joint training, co-operation on equipment and technology and better information sharing and would take the relationship between the two countries to “the closest it has ever been”.

The Guardian reported that Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy would announce plans for British and French troops to be deployed as a single brigade in future conflicts.

But Sir David - who has succeeded Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup as chief of the defence staff - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “I wait to see the detail of the announcement, I think that's one step beyond what I think is going to be in it.

”We are going to fight in something called an expeditionary joint force, which sees us possibly working alongside them at brigade level, but not within the same brigade.“

He said he welcomed closer working between the two countries - Europe's biggest military powers - adding: ”From a purely practical military perspective ... we have been working very closely with the French ever since the First World War and since, but particularly in Nato.

“We lost some of that in the 1990s and the last ten years or so. So we are almost going back to the very close co-operation we had in the Cold War era. It makes absolute sense from my perspective as we're going to fight alongside the French, which has been our plan for a long time, to be as good as it in training as we possibly can be.”

Sir David also rejected criticism from defence experts that the defence review had been a missed opportunity for a more challenging re-assessment of the UK's role.

“The trouble is you live in the real world. We were constrained in the degree to which we could go into the 21st Century, if you like, because of things like carrier contracts and so on. We have turned a corner. We now need to continue to turn in that direction.

”I think the reason why there is confusion about it, people don't really understand that in the future you could do with cyber attack what one might have sought to achieve with bombers, for example, even ten years ago. So we do need to continue to move in that direction, properly reflecting the information age and things like cyber.“

He said: ”I think we did as well as we possibly could and, in many areas, we did more than I did at one stage fear would be the case.“

Sir David also said there were ”reasons to be cautiously optimistic“ about progress in Afghanistan adding ”we are just beginning to“ turn the tide.

He paid tribute to US commander General David Petraeus, who he said was an ”outstanding commander who is now doing all those things that we knew we ought to have been doing five years ago but didn't have the resources or means to do, largely because of Iraq“.

He added he was ”pretty relaxed“ about Mr Cameron's 2015 target for withdrawing combat troops: ”It sharpens our attention: it means that resources are put into the operation to enable us to deliver on that deadline”.

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • briton

    Wont work, will never work, this has been mentioned on numerous sites, its all abt money and destroying British independence and making us part of a united Euro. And once again corrupt politicians will sell there mother for a grain of rice, they destroy our military ,, if we needed to send ships and carriers to south Atlantic, we would have to rely on the French agreeing to this, if they refuse where does that leave us, far to many questions unanswered, the end result will be no no-no, but the politicians will over ride public opinion and do it regardless, and when it all goes wrong, the government of the day will walk away saying its not our fault,
    be proud to be British, and kill of the idea of a united Europe, thank you.

    Nov 01st, 2010 - 08:46 pm 0
  • Think

    Excelent idea....
    Finally some European flair into British defence....

    Nov 01st, 2010 - 09:26 pm 0
  • briton

    yes london i promise you all is ok. you can lend our carrier anytime,
    [oh sorry just broken down, call the AA ]

    Nov 01st, 2010 - 11:41 pm 0
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