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Daily View: France-UK nuclear treaty

Host | 10:06 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy


Commentators discuss the treaty to be signed by France and the UK agreeing to military co-operation including testing of nuclear warheads.

Ben Macintyre says in the Times [subscription required] that the "entente is about to get even more cordiale":

"It is a sign of how far Britain's relationship with France has changed that the concerns over the Anglo-French defence treaty focus not on an assumed cultural incompatibility, rooted in history, but the practical and logistic challenge of aligning two great military powers. The chauvinism that once characterised Anglo-French relations, particularly in military circles, is evaporating."

The director of the Royal United Services Institute Michael Clarke says on the BBC Today Programme that all previous attempts at collaboration ran out of steam on the military level:

"There was good political atmosphere on occasion, it never actually created real step changes in capabilities later on. This time it might be different, because they are desperate.
"...The fact is if both powers are determined to play a role in the world with military force they are going to have to find ways of pooling their relatively common force structures to have some real effect."

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The Daily Mail editorial fears for the future:

"Though Mr Cameron and M. Sarkozy may get along, where will Britain be left if we have to plead with a future French Socialist Government for the use of an aircraft carrier to defend our interests? And how can the Tories, who rightly opposed plans for a European army, even consider handing operational control of the SAS to France? Mr Cameron said yesterday: 'The point is to enhance sovereign capability by two like-minded countries.' We may be like-minded today, Prime Minister. But what about tomorrow?"

Philip Stephens says in the Financial Times [registration required] that austerity has made both nations realise they only have each other:

"[T]he two nations may at last have realised that they have reached the end of the separate roads on which they set off after the Suez crisis. France can no longer hope to organise Europe against America. Britain cannot substitute a close bond with the US for collaboration on its own continent. The pity is that it has taken the reality of decline to persuade them of the obvious."

In the French press Jean Guisnel at Le Telegramme adds that this won't lead to a European army:

"What is in no doubt, however, is that integrated European defence is not being considered. The UK will not hear of it and, since France's reintegration into Nato, it's a low priority for Paris."

Conversely, Pierre Rousselin argues in Le Figaro that Europe will gain from the relationship:

"If the two capitals can get along to pool their resources, share major equipment projects and prepare joint deployments, it's the defence of Europe as a whole that is progressing."

Links in full

Ben Macintyre | Times | The entente is about to get even more cordiale
BBC Today | Defence treaties 'can run out of steam'
Daily Mail | But will the entente be forever cordiale?
Philip Stephens | Financial Times | A cordial entente to match the realities of power
Jean Guisnel | Le Telegramme | Défense. Une entente cordiale Paris-Londres ?
Pierre Rousselin | Le Figaro | Paris - Londres : une question de survie

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