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The entente frugale

Nick Robinson | 10:23 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Where will it all end?

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy

 

That's the question politicians never want to answer when they unveil new treaties. They always insist, as David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy no doubt will today, that they are merely making practical, common-sense, non-ideological policies. This, in other words, is an entente frugale forged in tough economic times.

After all, they will ask, doesn't it make sense for Britain to make use of France's aircraft carrier when ours is being repaired - and vice versa?

Isn't it sensible to save money by sharing nuclear expertise to test the safety of our nuclear weapons?

Maybe.

However, it will now be easier - much easier - for future politicians to ask: if we are using each other's carriers and if our men are training together, why don't we form a joint air-wing? One source I spoke to described that as "a downstream issue".

Others may say: if we are testing our nuclear components together, would it not make sense to join together to purchase the next generation of warheads? Someone in the know told me that our two countries would use different missiles "for the time being".

Atlanticists may welcome all this as proof that France is at last abandoning its hauteur towards Nato.

Europe enthusiasts may also welcome it as the first step towards a common European defence.

Sceptics may wonder whether it will end up being about much more than symbols.

The questions I have raised are not ones that will be settled this year - perhaps not even this decade. But my hunch is that the signing of two treaties between France and the UK may have very profound implications for the future.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    ' However, it will now be easier - much easier - for future politicians to ask: if we are using each other's carriers and if our men are training together, why don't we form a joint air-wing? One source I spoke to described that as "a downstream issue".'

    I'm sure that similar questions about long term merging of forces were raised during the early days of NATO or when the US first operated bases here - and we still retain our military independence (or at least the US allow us to think so!).

    It is undoubtedly cost saving that is the main driver of this joint venture but I don't believe that it will necessarily lead to much more than is currently being indicated - indeed I wouldn't be surprised if future politicians in better economic times might make a virtue out of going it alone again.

  • Comment number 2.

    Possibly so Nicholas...

    Concerning the practicalities of loaning each other aircraft carriers, I'm really not sure how that is going to work. Purely from a readiness and exercising perspective, yes, I can see the benefits in that. Particularly if our intention is to use the F35C rather than the STOVL F35B. Means more training and currency for the aircrew concerned. Once the F35 is certified to fly off the French carriers though, that is. And, Rafale to be certified to fly off of ours. Plus, who is going to provide the escort ships, refuellers, replenishment at sea, maritime patrol (sanitising the surrounding area for submarines, etc)?

    And given that the French carriers have, for the most part recently been CVN's (nuclear) rather than CVF's (conventional fuels), there are going to be all manner of safety, training, environmental/infrastructure management issues for both navies to get a hold on. This will take quite some considerable time to work up to a point where it is both practical and desirable for both nations.

    Not to mention the reaction of the Elysee Palace when our navy finds the only uncharted rock for 1000's of miles around in the Indian Ocean to park the French carrier on. I'm sure that'll go down well.

    Plus, what on earth would we use it for, outside of exercises that the French would permit, where there may be diplomatic sensitivities? Had this arrangement been in place in 2003, would the French have let us borrow the CDG to take to the Gulf? Risking a capital ship in a warzone in a conflict they didnt agree with and didnt support?

    This particular element, I think I'm inclined to agree smacks more of headline buying, political expediency rather than true military need on either side. This is a sideshow to distract from something else.

    Now, the sharing of Airborne Early Warning, Long Range Maritime Patrol (now Nimrod has been canned) and Air To Air Refuelling assets would deliver almost immediate benefits for both the UK and France where each has capability gaps. Some of this is already done under the auspices of NATO and this could be further extended by using bilateral agreements rather than it being any kind of thin end of the wedge for a Franco-led EU Force.

    As for it having profound implications for the future... I wouldnt read too much into it yet, I really wouldnt. They've only just eased themselves back into NATO after De Gaulle's strop in the late 1960's. This is just the initial germ of a bilateral agreement between two NATO member nations which may work, it may not. Just keeps a number more of the civil servants in jobs that they would have been hoofed out of under SDSR.

  • Comment number 3.

    "However, it will now be easier - much easier - for future politicians to ask: if we are using each other's carriers and if our men are training together, why don't we form a joint air-wing?

    Others may say: if we are testing our nuclear components together, would it not make sense to join together to purchase the next generation of warheads?"

    Who is asking that? Who is saying that?

    Other than you?

  • Comment number 4.

    Great. We have over 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, France have less than 3,000. France have twice as many troops as we do overall, can't wait for them to give us a hand.

  • Comment number 5.

    I guess that the wisdom or otherwise of this policy will only become apparent if in the future we want to borrow French equipment to pursue an action which is seen to be in our interests rather than theirs. I hope that such an event never occurs, but do we really think that the French will say yes if it did?

  • Comment number 6.

    'Where will it all end?'

    Has the BBC gone completely off its trolley or did none of its junior members ever read their history books?

    'Where did it all begin?' would be a more appropriate question for a cross channel relationship that extends back a thousand years.

    William the Conqueror? the Doomsday Book? Norman churches and castles? Eleanor of Aquitaine? Agincourt? The Field of the Cloth of Gold?

    Not to mention all those lame brains laughing at the supposed Anglicising of the French language with 'le weekend' who don't seem to realise half their own vocabulary is directly descended from French or Norman or both.

    It's just an agreement, BBC.

  • Comment number 7.

    Not to mention all those lame brains laughing at the supposed Anglicising of the French language with 'le weekend' who don't seem to realise half their own vocabulary is directly descended from French or Norman or both
    ------------
    I don't think people laugh at the French adopting enlgish words (I would think most are aware of how easily english has incorporated bits from many languages for starters); they laugh at perceived French attempts to resist such adoptions to keep the French language 'pure'.

    As for this agreement, it does make all kinds of sense, especially given we have been allies for over 100 years, but it is still not the sort of thing I find easy to celebrate (we are still intense rivals after all, albeit in a friendly if not always warm manner), and it is being done simply on cost grounds and so hardly what leaders on both sides would have wanted if they could avoid it.

  • Comment number 8.

    The aircraft carrier issue sounds like a red herring to me - UK politicians are using it as justification for the two new carriers they cannot bin. The interesting bit is the shared use of air refueling, reconnaisance and transport and sharing nuclear testing facilities. The latter to me could be a big step and I am surprised the French agreed to it considering they value their independent nuclear deterrent even more than we do and continue to spend large amounts of money maintaining it.

    I seriously doubt though that this is the start of a European force. I can't believe the French want to give up their autonomy any more than we do. They still inherently believe in the Gaullist post-Suez idea that the only country the French can rely on is themselves. This treaty is just common sense. In any case, there is no one else in Europe other than the UK worth joining with as they have no military forces worthy of the name.

  • Comment number 9.

    I would definitely welcome a unified army in Europe... or better, an army of the core European contries (not the whole EU, that would be a recipe for disaster). If we are building fighters together... why not share more things and make the army much cheaper?
    Enmglish would be, of course, the common language...:)

  • Comment number 10.

    If the French say "Non" or the British say "No", what happens? Seems like a daft idea.

  • Comment number 11.

    Looks like sarkozy will stop at nothing to please the americans.

  • Comment number 12.

    9 "Enmglish would be, of course, the common language...:)"

    Hope not, can't speak a word of that.

  • Comment number 13.

    Sharing nuclear technology makes good sense, but only for generating electricity, not for designing warheads. Nuclear weapons are an expensive toy that we do not need and can no longer afford. The real threat to the UK is not from a nuclear super power who may launch missiles against us, but a rogue State such as Iran who sponsors international terrorism. A nuclear deterrent is of no use against terrorists.

    As for combining French and UK forces, undoubtedly this would be an advantage to the over-stretched and underfunded UK military, particularly as we now face the prospect of an aircraft carrier with no aircraft, and another aircraft carrier mothballed before it is even built.

    However, I am very dubious about any sort of joint command arrangements. France does not share the UK's views on a wide range of foreign policy issues and it's unlikely a marriage of convenience could work.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well done to the american negociators who managed to get a foothold in the Laser Megajoule facility through their british minions free of charge .

  • Comment number 15.

    Cameron is merely learning the lesson that what is said before an election is not what can be achieved after one. These are the realities that actually being in Government brings upon those who choose to take the reigns of power. Cameron had no chance of delivering his promises on the EU, ever since the Lisbon Treaty was signed. It is pretty rich of Ed Miliband to criticize, considering it was the Government of which he was an integral part, who handed so much of Britains powers to the EU over 13 years. The result is what we see now, is Cameron with his hands being tied over most issues with regard to the EU.

    However this joining up with the French on defence is a mistake and would not have been necessary if the right cuts had been made to accommodate a proper defence budget. The French, by nature, are a very unpredictable nation with regard to politics and most other issues. What about when Sarkozy is no longer in office. Cameron tells us guarantees have been put in place to protect UK sovereignty over this issue, lets hope so.

    Cameron has further broken his promises about voting rights for prisoners, almost certainly a policy to appease the Lib/Dems and the promise of no increase in budget for the EU. This may have been unavoidable, but will play very badly with the public. Furthermore there appears to be more and more powers surrendered in our justice system to the EU. This should bring home to politicians, that they should do their homework as to what actually can be delivered in office by them, before being promised to a gullible electorate.

    Cameron is not a true Conservative, being much more suited to the Lib/Dem ideals. This in time will cause him great difficulty with the rest of his party, particularly over EU matters.

    The EU issues raise many more questions than just the obvious ones. The British, particularly the English, should be asking themselves, whether the heavy hand of state control has really been lifted under this new Coalition. Most of the English public are by nature sceptics with regard to the EU, yet they have no say when their powers as a nation are being handed over more each day to the EU. At a time when the American public is looking to take back power from the state, that Obama has taken, the British seem happy to accept more state control, with decisions on the EU made without public consent.

    It is perhaps time taking into account the unfairness of the budget cuts, where England again took the burden of the cost cutting. Taking into account the massive cost of the devolved Governments. The fact that England voted for and did not get a Conservative Government. Also that the English want less power going to the EU. That England becomes Independent itself under a proper Conservative Government. Because in truth, this Coalition is a shambles with the Lib/Dems in the mix. Therefore Britain is getting half-baked policies which will not advance the British economy and related issues one bit.

  • Comment number 16.

    Trial on approval - Cameron should watch his back if it is suggested this is another 'stealth' bomber for Europe.

  • Comment number 17.

    This agreement between Britain and France is sensible and very much in line with what the Coalition is doing in many areas at present. As usual the media have exaggerated possible problems in an attempt to derail things. This morning the Daily Mail frightened us with the prospect of British troops in the Falklands having to answer to French generals. The ideas are also consistent with the Coalitions wish to ease back from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • Comment number 18.

    First it's the aircraft carriers with no airplanes.

    Now its shared aircraft carriers.

    It gets more ludicrous by the day.

    "Dear France, the tories are back and we need to retake the Falklands (again) can we please borrow the aircraft carrier?"

    It's a great time to laugh at the tories.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    Makes sense to share toys.

  • Comment number 22.

    No word from the BBC about Brown's shameful appearance in the carrier debate last night then?
    A 5 minute speech, riddled with lies, self-interest, and hypocrisy, a subsequent 5 second intervention which proved that he wasn't even bothering to listen to the debate, getting the date wrong for Remembrance Day, and that's all he's done with 6 months' wages paid for by the tax payer.

    His "tribute" to the military was particularly sickening, given the fact that he'd smeared them when they'd told the truth about his total refusal to worry about the lack of kit/helicopters despite knowing that ignoring it would cause untold deaths of UK soldiers.

    Cameron's just being pragmatic given the bankrupted state of the economy that Brown left us all with. The deal with the French is being done purely to help minimise the adverse impacts of the completely insane situation that labour left the UK with.

    My guess is that "normal service will be resumed" when we've paid off the £1trillion to £5trillion debt (depending on which figures you look at) that Gordon Brown left us with, but that'll probably take a generation or 2, so we're probably stuck with being forced into a military deal with the French purely on economic and practical grounds for at least 20 years.

    Brown left us with 2 totally unfunded carriers, a structural deficit and accumulated debt that's so big that it's almost impossible for us to come out of bankruptcy without a miracle.

    We just have to make the best out of it that we can, hope that labour never get back into power to wreak the same economic annihilation again, hope that nobody anywhere on the planet ever listens to Gordon Brown about anything ever again, and hope that Cameron continues using pragmatic and reasonable approaches in dealing with issues.

  • Comment number 23.

    But Nick you know exactly what this is all about. The coalition is out to eliminate the UK defence industry so it can buy what it wants from other countries when it wants it. So expect the Clyde yards to shut when the carriers are finished and watch BAe Systems scamper off to the USA as it's always planned to.

    The City and the Treasury will be very happy of course.

  • Comment number 24.

    Its a no brainer isn't it? Of course we need to make these type of arrangements with France.

    On the basis of previous great power status Britain and France got a good deal in the establishment of the post WW2 global institutions (a seat on the UN Security Council, a disproportionate vote in the IMF etc.). As political and economic power has dwindled we have been forced to take increasingly onerous steps to justify our global influence. Things have got so bad we are now co-operating with France to defray the cost of maintaining our historical status.

    Other than our history and current military spending, development aid and nuclear status how else do Britain and France justify two seats on the UN Security Council. From an Asian perspective one might ask why Britain and France's seats should not be divided between the EU and India.



  • Comment number 25.

    Time we all realised that Europe is becoming a 3rd world country and can only afford 3rd world defences.
    Even better long term would be for all member states to hand over defence to the United Nations, with an absolute commitment from the UN to defend all of it's members borders - no one would need a national force then and it would save countless billions to be better used and probably stop illegal wars such as Iraq from happening again, and mean those undertaken such as Afghanistan have full legitimacy from the outset.

  • Comment number 26.

    if we are not carefull Crash Gordons bankrupting of the UK will cause a USE and all that follows from that ?

  • Comment number 27.

    #17 Of course the Mail didn't mention the fact that under this plan British officers could find themselves in charge of the Foreign Legion on combat missions, I wonder why...

  • Comment number 28.

    "I'm starting to get a feeling of de ja vu. Millions made unemployed, billions transferred to a handful of rich, ordinary folk homeless, yuppies driving round in porsches etc."

    "The tories are back and taking up where they left off."

    Damn right too. Let the devil take the hindmost!

  • Comment number 29.

    18#

    Just as I figured, more talking garbage about a subject you know nothing about, along with a stolen catchphrase.

    I mean, are you fit for any purpose at all jon?

  • Comment number 30.

    #18 The trick is to make sure that you don't have to retake the Falklands again and that means keeping the garrison strong to counter any potential Argentine threat. That threat is non existent at the moment, Argentina simply doesn't have the military capability to invade the islands, if they did begin to re-arm the garrison could be bolstered very quickly by flying in more troops.

    You obviously find the outcome of the SDSR hilarious, that was the inevitable outcome of the complete disaster that was Labour's defence policy. The new carriers should have been entering service now but they were continually delayed because Brown insisted that the Iraq War be funded from the MoD's budget leading to the £38 billion overspend that had to be addressed. Labour spent years faffing about over the final order so the budget could be spent on funding Blair's Iraq adventure, they also kept asking for the ships to be redesigned which pushed up the cost. They also got the design wrong from the very start by specifying VSTOL carriers for which the only feasible aircraft option was the very expensive F-35B. Had they gone for the CATOBAR option they could have chosen from the cheaper and more capable F-35C, or the French Rafale or the US Navy's F/A-18 Super Hornet.

    Given your obvious concern about defence issues I'm sure you were expressing your displeasure about all these issues over the last 13 years!

  • Comment number 31.

    Hmm. The first steps toward a European defense force. Politicians are finding our new poverty very convenient.

  • Comment number 32.

    Eliminate the UK defence industry???

    Dont you realise that there is already no UK defence industry left anyway?

    BAe arent British any more. They've got maybe 20% of the workforce and their business left in the UK, nothing more.

    A vast majority of the shipyards were bought up by BAe (or allowed to go bust under Labour, with not much complaint by the way..), Westland are owned by the Italians, the big outsourcing players, HP, EDS, IBM, are all American, Cap Gemini & Atos Origin are French, Siemens are German, Qinetiq are hardly British any more. Lockheed Martin & General Dynamics both have UK facilities that were previously British but are totally American, EADS is Franco/German...

    All that you're left with is a bunch of specialist consultancies and niche manufacturers.

    There is a UK defence industry in the sense that there is a target market for the worlds 4th largest defence budget, but a homegrown industry?? Theres next to nothing left. BAe bought most of it on the acquisition trail and asset stripped it.

    And successive Tory and Labour governments let them.

  • Comment number 33.

    "21. At 1:14pm on 02 Nov 2010, sagamix wrote:
    Makes sense to share toys."

    Weren't you criticising someone on another board for making facile posts?

    Hello, Mr Pot, have you been calling the Kettle black again?

  • Comment number 34.

    This is one of the most important outcomes of the financial crisis.

    It is sensible and necessary to cut costs for defence in this way without leaving us at the mercy of stronger and more aggressive countries in the future.

    The United States can no longer be relied upon 100% to come to our defence while it has its own economic problems to overcome which leaves the West looking pretty vulnerable right now and further into the future.

    Only those in La La land would ever surmise that there is no potential aggressor to the West out there who, would they to have the upper hand, would not hesitate to attack whether militarily economically or in Cyberspace.

    It is now very true that as a Eurosceptic I can see very well how important it is that these kind of links are forged with some of the large European countries in the future.

    This does not change my mind about killing off the monstrous waste bin of the European Commission.

    From the tone of Sarkozy this morning I don't think we are any longer isolated on this point.

  • Comment number 35.

    Believe me, Enmglish is easier than Frenmch.

  • Comment number 36.

    30#

    Not sure I agree with you about the FI. The Argentines dont lack the ability or the equipment.

    What they lack is the political will and the cojones to go for it.

    See Sir Sandy Woodward's comments two weeks ago in the Telegraph on the same subject. Its a concern I've had for a number of years and given the size of the garrison down there at the moment, it looks like he thinks the same way too.

  • Comment number 37.

    "Given your obvious concern about defence issues I'm sure you were expressing your displeasure about all these issues over the last 13 years!"

    He's just another yappy handbag-dog Liberal who wishes he was left enough to be Labour with nothing but stolen taglines to contribute.

  • Comment number 38.

    I think that this is a pretty good idea really (and certainly better than relying even more on the Americans).
    In one way or another Britain and France have always been historically connected, shared the same ambitions etc, and as such in many ways are the two countries in Europe most alike. We've fought each other, nabbed slices of Africa from each other, worked together to expand our two empires, fought alongside each other in the two World Wars and then both had to deal with the dismantlement of empire and diminishment of status in the world. It seems almost a natural progression to once again work together even closer than before in order to maintain our international status and the security of the overseas territories that we both have left.
    Although i really wish they wouldn't call the joint force an "Expeditionary Force", those have never worked out too well...

  • Comment number 39.

    Nick posits the rhetorical question - Where will it all end?

    It will 'end' with a fully integrated EU defence capability, which will initially probably consist of the strongest members, whom I would imagine are currently France, Germany, Italy and the UK.

    Our Euro politicians are very nervous about this sort of thing and inch their public slowing forward, incrementally getting them used to the idea of EU military co-operation, bit-by-bit.

    This blogger has not been involved with Defence matters for two decades but around four decades ago, was involved with the French with various weapons-of-minor-destruction and we English engineers soon got up-to-speed with Fronglais.

    Working with Europe on defence?

    Not really an engineering or military problem, more a matter of political will and of course, 'shaping the public'.

  • Comment number 40.

    Sensible idea, and would probably make going into unpopular and unnecessary wars such as in the last decade harder, which can only be a good thing.

    The coalition government moving to get closer to our European neighbours sounds like influence from the yellow side of things to me. One up to the Lib Dems I think.

  • Comment number 41.

    Was it not Churchill that offered the French the opportunity to join Great Britain in a single Nation near the start of the Second World War?

    Perhaps now foreign language teaching will gain more scholastic importance - I can't get out of my mind the vision and sound of British and French squadies trying to communicate and slaughtering each-others languages!

    It will certainly bring shame upon the Nation whose troops cannot work in the other's language.

    The bigots, racists, warmongers and little Englanders will emerge from the woodwork and rant their stupid gibberish for a while (see above) - they as so funny - it brings to mind the being part of a party of Victorian gentry visiting Bedlam for amusement! We shouldn't laugh should we! But their arguments are like colanders - full of holes and leaking.

  • Comment number 42.

    #39. JohnConstable wrote:

    "Nick posits the rhetorical question - Where will it all end?

    It will 'end' with a fully integrated EU defence capability, which will initially probably consist of the strongest members, whom I would imagine are currently France, Germany, Italy and the UK."

    Yes, quite rational, pragmatic, desirable and correct - I agree.

  • Comment number 43.

    Beyond the usual outbursts of xenophobia to be expected at such an announcement, one has to ask what strategic benefits this agreement will bring.

    At an instinctual level, one can appreciate that neither country's military or governing classes want to see their global influence diminished still further - but is it not reasonable to ask if the perceived benefits are real and quantifiable and so worth the cost, or whether the desire to be seen to bestride the globe serves no real purpose other than a need to satisfy outdated 19th century traditions and vanity.

    Clearly, the UK and France do not share a miltarily strategic view of the globe, let alone a common foreign policy. And let us not forget that the proud military traditions of both countries will not readily allow for the necessary compromises required for both services to combine as an effective fighting force - for one thing (which nobody seems to have mentioned) we don't speak the same language! Does anybody seriously think either nation would accept the other's language as the military lingua franca.

    One can appreciate that, for training purposes, some economies of scale may be achievable - though there will be the not insignificant issue of interoperability between the differing equipment used by both nations. How much money will need to be spent to realise the benefits being trumpeted?

    Overall, this seems little more than (another) final hurrah by both nations, as they attempt to be seen (and taken seriously) as global military players - which patently is not true.

    This SDSR, as have all others since WWII, singularly failed to face up to our true place on the world stage. Money will continue to be wasted on trying to maintain, yet uttrerly failing, the pretence that the UK really can make a difference. We can't. Our service men and women are dying in Afghanistan on a fool's errand - one for which nobody truly accepts responsibility. Therein lies the real tragedy, if not the crime.

  • Comment number 44.

    This may sound naive, but surely the simple issue of language is a factor here?

    For day-to-day operations, I'm sure that British and French armed forces would have no problem communicating. But what happens when the proverbial hits the fan - i.e. conflict situations, when ballistics are zinging in the air and people need to communicate quickly and with clarity?

    I raised this with my brother, who has seen active service working alongside armed forces of various nationalities: his response is that when bullets start flying, soldiers generally default to their native language in the heat of the moment (consciously or not), which can obviously cause serious problems.

    Otherwise, it seems like a reasonable idea for both financial and political reasons.

  • Comment number 45.

    "It will 'end' with a fully integrated EU defence capability, which will initially probably consist of the strongest members, whom I would imagine are currently France, Germany, Italy and the UK."

    "Yes, quite rational, pragmatic, desirable and correct - I agree."

    NATO already delivers that. An EU Defence Force is just adding more command layers and bureaucracy for the sake of it. Same as the EU Foreign Service. Its just another jobs for the boys unaccountable money spending empire building exercise to go down that path.

    None of the nations mentioned have the financial resources to be able to commit vast sums to not only NATO declared and funded assets and commitments as well as EU Defence force ones PLUS their own national commitments.

    All this declaration is, is the start of a simple bi-lateral agreement (albeit a quite ambitious one for reasons I stated earlier) between two NATO partner nations.

    Lets not get too carried away with it.

  • Comment number 46.

    Some of these comments amaze me.

    Why the hostility to the new carriers? Ok, they are not strictly needed right now but who is to say what will be needed in 20 years. As a previous poster has commented, they have been continually delayed and should be approaching service but thanks to NewLabour incompetance they were not. Many new powers are building, or planning to build, supercarriers so it makes sense to keep up.

    Same with Trident. People bleat that its an expensive waste and has never been used. They fail to realise thats the entire point. Its a deterrent...you hope not to use it. It may not deter Islamic terrorists but it does deter Iran, or China.

    I do wish posters could look beyond next week when considering military spending. Aircraft carriers are essential to power projection.

    As for the question of funding, we could have built, fully equipped, improved the designs of both carriers, and still had change left over for the cost of just one of Brown's great £10bn African education giveaways. How much good did that money do i wonder? The UK can well afford these systems. Its in our long term interests that they are not cancelled to save the equivalent of less than a weeks welfare spending.

    As for this French idea. Oh dear. It is clearly a move to a future EU Army as seen by the EU flag in the background.

  • Comment number 47.

    What a strange blog entry - I know Nick has a tendancy towards the dramatic, but this is a little bit of overkill. As many have observed, a great deal of this agreement (apart from maybe the nuclear cooperation element) we have within NATO. "Where will it all end?" Hyperbole I think - as many have mentioned, we will likely notice little difference in the way our forces operate as a result of this agreement.

    I do however wholly support any form of multilateral defence agreement - stressing the word defence - as it spreads the cost of maintaining military functions, and also provides greater political support and backing for military use. I think one of the most tragic politcal loses to come out of the Iraq War was the effective destruction of UN authority at the hands of the US/UK coalition forces; in undermining UN protocol and acting outside of it's jurisdiction, the coalition not only had no international authority to invade Iraq (outside of their sovereign ends), but irreparably damaged the role of the UN as a hope for international peace-keeping. We should only be using the military for two things - defence, and peace-keeping. In the instance of peace-keeping, this must be something recognised by the majority to be the best course of action, hence some sort of international law ruling (formerly the UN). The UK should never have been involved in Iraq or Afghanistan, without the political and operational support of the international community through a ratified agreement.

    The only instance in which the UK could/should be acting in it's own intersts, outside of those of France or Nato or the UN is with the Falklands in the face of a potential threat from Argentina. This interest is unique in that none of the French departments and territories are coveted by another nation to the extent of the Falklands, as far as I'm aware, so the extent to which France would be willing to assist in such a case is moot. Though I'm pretty sure those involved in the agreement would not have failed to bear in mind the situation with the Falklands, or at least as you'd hope.

    I personally do not think there is a risk of a repeat of the Falklands war - but if it did happen, I would be incredibly shocked if the US did not intervene given the open-ended support the UK has provided to their interests.

    But to refer back to the blog post - no, this is probably more political posturing in the face of cuts than any era-defining change in international military cooperation.

  • Comment number 48.

    @Susan Croft,
    Sorry but it was the English who voted for Con govt, and with it they lost their rights to moan. Cameron says one in public(read Tele) and does exactly the opposite. Remember, he called Brown/labour a liar regarding VAT increase but thats what exactly he did. In public he says he will fight for Britain but in reality he is keen to surrender more and more control. But again, people have no right to moan about it, because they voted for him. Dont they know what he is like? If not, then why they voted for him? No, I did not vote for Con party. Certainly not for Cameron.

  • Comment number 49.

    Indeed, Nick, you have raised questions. Perhaps your hunch is right? Yes, this is a 'downstream' issue in political speak.

    However, France has an enormous armaments export industry to it's many ex-colonial customers, in high conflict areas of the world. The French military is extremely well-equipped too.

    Do we think that this treaty will enable better equipment for UK troops as a built-in advantage? There's a question. Let's hope that's in the small print. However, that's a 'downstream' issue too until the upstream blocks are sorted at the MoD?

  • Comment number 50.

    As some of our esteemed bloggers have mentioned, there is a foreign policy consideration.

    In fact, defence is supposed to be shaped to facilitate foreign policy objectives, hence the need for a coherent foreign policy objectives document.

    So, over time, I think we will see EU member States 'foreign policy' encompassed within an overarching EU Foreign Policy.

    That is the natural conclusion of the political process in this sphere.

  • Comment number 51.

    I may be wrong but i suspect that the cost to britain in the long term will be significantly higher than the present projections,history of course will tell but i keep feeling there will come a time when a conflict of interests will occur and that can never be a good thing .

    I detest the idea of having this sort of arrangement, i dont want our servicemen under french control at any time....its bad enough working for the americans...

  • Comment number 52.

    There is also a political dimension to take into consideration vis-a-vis the EU and NATO.

    At present, the long established NATO is the driver but over time, I expect that NATO will be supplanted by the EUDF.

    That is, NATO assets held within the EU sphere will become (solely) EUDF assets.

    This will take a considerable time but the political will of the EU will eventually desire exclusive control of military forces within the EU and a geo-politically and economically weakened USA will accede (we are talking decades away).

  • Comment number 53.

    Will this not affect the 1958 UK-US Mutual Defence Agreement which encompasses the nuclear weapons field? This act enabled the US to share its nuclear secrets with us, as by law they are not allowed in normal circumstances.

  • Comment number 54.

    Further to my 45, as there are Foreign Policy objectives correctly mentioned, I would also like to bring up the matter of how long it takes to get a collection of nations allied in such a manner to agree on anything.

    Considering sometimes, use of defence assets is time critical, there may be a lot of fogginess in the eventual implementation of such a harmonious foreign policy/defence conundrum where national and Supra-national interests may not necessarily be enmeshed.

    Or are we going to be looking at another go at NATO's Article 5 (collective defence - an attack on one is seen as an attack on all)?

    I strongly urge caution in giving too much backing to an organisation that cannot even audit its own accounts over two decades to the point where you'd be relying on them for you to be able to sleep soundly in your beds every night.

    The apparatus already exists, is proven and it works. It does not need to be duplicated on an EU wide basis.

  • Comment number 55.

    Lets take a scenario. French want our subs/aircraft carrier. As per the agreement we let them use it. Now, few months later, we need theirs and the French says "Non" (as usual of course). Now, what Cameron can do about it? Impose sanctions on France? Fine them? Find a shoulder to cry and complain loudly (only) in British Tele?

    Even if the agreement enforces certain sort of penalty, France is a sovereign nation, and the next President can just throw it away or employ all sort of delaying tactics.

    My two pence.

  • Comment number 56.

    However, it will now be easier - much easier - for future politicians to ask: if we are using each other's carriers and if our men are training together, why don't we form a joint air-wing? One source I spoke to described that as "a downstream issue".

    Others may say: if we are testing our nuclear components together, would it not make sense to join together to purchase the next generation of warheads? Someone in the know told me that our two countries would use different missiles "for the time being".


    All you've done here is suggest things that they're not going to do.
    That's not analysis. It's not even speculation.

  • Comment number 57.

    One area that should not take heavy cuts, when a Country wishes to remain independent, in a very uncertain World such as we have now, is defence. Liam Fox may dress this issue up in any way he pleases, but the only reason defence has taken such heavy cuts is because the Coalition was not brave enough to make the necessary cuts in other areas. The other reason is that the Lib/Dems are very anti defence by nature and at present this seems to be the only side of the Coalition being listened to by Cameron. The Conservatives have always been very pro defence in the past.

    Sharing defence with France will prove to be a costly mistake. The only aircraft carrier that is going to be used until 2020 is I understand the French one, which is not fit for purpose. Furthermore it takes away Britains ability, should it need to, to act alone, having to seek agreement from the French before hand.

    The Coalition at the moment is not looking at the long term needs of Britain, and how actions today will come back to haunt them long after. Rushing into policy without giving the issue sufficient thought is something Labour consistently did, this Coalition seems to be in the same mold.

  • Comment number 58.

    I was just thinking. What happened to those great companies that built the Vulcan, the Victor, the Bucanneer, the Sea Vixen, the Hunter, the wonderful Lightning and all those other iconic British aircraft? What also happened to Marconi, Plessy and the other great electronics companies. What happened to the company that built the Chieftain tank?

    The City and the Treasury have a lot to answer for don't they.

  • Comment number 59.

    Nathan 48

    Well actually the English do have a right to moan, the reason is they voted on mass for just a Consevative Government not a Coalition. If England had been Independent, a purely Conservative Government would have been in office.

    As it is, the devolved Governments are not taking the full force of the cuts because the Lib/Dems have a voting base, particularly in Scotland which they are determined to keep. This means yet again England takes the burden of the cuts, whilst Scotland enjoys privileges that England cannot afford. Defence is just one area that is to suffer for keeping this unfair system of Governance.

    In these days of deficit, the devolved Governments should be given the option to either go Independent or cut all the layers of Government that are not needed should they decide to stay in the Union. If not, then England should take the decision to go Independent themselves. This would make England a much richer Country.

    As to Cameron, the public voted on the policies that were presented to them at the time of the Election. They cannot therefore be held responsible when the policies change once a Coalition is put in place. I like Cameron, however he does not represent a proper Conservative view and is certainly not the leader needed at this time.

    Indeed the English overall do not moan enough, they are too apathetic.


  • Comment number 60.

    Say what you like about the 'entente frugale' but if we join forces, then at least we get the opportunity to sing La Marseillaise, which is an inspiring anthem.

    Quite unlike that miserable dire than we English have to endure (note that both the Scots and the Welsh have their own rather wonderful anthems).

    Yes, folks, the English do not even have their own national anthem.

  • Comment number 61.

    Quite unlike that miserable dire than we English have to endure (note that both the Scots and the Welsh have their own rather wonderful anthems).
    --------------------------
    I quite like it myself (despite not believing in God funnily enough).

  • Comment number 62.

    Wee-Scamp @ 58

    One way or another, I worked with most of the companies you listed during my time in the Defence industry, i.e. BAC (latterly BAe), Vospers, Ferranti, Westland, Marconi, Plessey and others.

    Ypu go on to say that the City and the Treasury have a lot to answer for, implying that it was those organs that done for them.

    I do not think so.

    Hardly at all.

    The blame must lie with meddling politicians down the decades and their grotesque (continuing) experiments with education, which has simply been unable to generate a quantity of engineers and scientists for industry (or even enough people with basic skills).

    Consequently, we now have very little skin left in the defence game - its more like a bleached skeleton.

  • Comment number 63.

    I'm selling white flags for £2.00 each.

    Should be a millionaire by Friday!

  • Comment number 64.

    Kieran @ 61

    As you might have guessed, I missed a 'g' there, as in "that miserable dire than we English have to endure " so 'dirge' but maybe dire would do just as well.

    You may or may not believe in 'God' but as long as we all imagine that only 'God' can decide when a life ends and not a violent human playing 'God' or under the illusion that he/she is God's proxy, then all will be well.

  • Comment number 65.

    S.Croft @ Heinz,

    Hey Susan, excited about the Tea Party? You must be ... it's like they've read your blogs and based a movement on it. Just in America at present but I'm betting you've got plans for something similar over here. You have? I knew it!

    Better start taking you more seriously, hadn't I? Like this thing of yours - slashing tax on high earners - it's counter intuitive, no question, but I guess so is Keynes in many ways and he's got his followers, hasn't he? So, yes, let's go for it. What I'm thinking is we get radical and we bring back the 10p rate. We bring it back but only for incomes over £250k per annum - make the top rate lower than the base rate. How about that? If this doesn't get these guys running around like billio, creating wealth, nothing will. And then for the bankers, them being very mobile and all, able to jump countries and continents at the twang of a brace, we go a little further ... special 5% rate for them, make absolutely damn sure they stay right here. Sorted. But won't all this be deeply unpopular with the public? (I hear people ask). Mmm, perhaps so. But governments should lead (shouldn't they?) - act in the long term national interest - not pander in the name of cheap populism. Guess I don't need to tell you that, Susan.

  • Comment number 66.

    Confusing facile with succinct, Andy (33).

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    58. Wee-Scamp

    "I was just thinking. What happened to those great companies that built the Vulcan, the Victor, the Bucanneer, the Sea Vixen, the Hunter, the wonderful Lightning and all those other iconic British aircraft?"
    ============================
    Most of them merged together until the nationalisation and merger of them all in 1977 to form British Aerospace.

    "What also happened to Marconi, Plessy and the other great electronics companies."
    =================================
    Ferranti disappeared when it bought a US company at considerable expense, only to find it was worthless. I think GEC-Marconi picked up teh good bits. GEC owned Marconi and it bought Plessey in around 1990. The Marconi part of GEC was then merged with British Aerospace to form BAE Systems in 1998. There are various bits of the companies still going today.

    "What happened to the company that built the Chieftain tank?"
    ==============================
    Leyland are still going in some form or ther.

    "The City and the Treasury have a lot to answer for don't they. "
    ==========================================================
    Not sure what you mean here. It can be argued that the acquisition of companies was driven by shareholders looking to make money. The GEC takeover of Plessey certainly was. But as technology developed it became increasingly difficult for the smaller companies to generate the finance necessary to develop say an aircraft. Only the big players survived. The same thing happened in the US. Add to that the monopolies and mergers commission turning a blind eye, and we are now we are today.

  • Comment number 69.

    sagamix 65

    I can always tell when you are slightly bored, does the topic of defence not appeal to you by any chance?

    I was right about Obama, if you remember, you might give a little credence to the fact, I might be right on other issues as well.

    I note you have been defending HH, even you could not believe Harriet was right to say what she did, I think you are just causing mischief with our Andy and others.

  • Comment number 70.

    No65 Saga,
    Suzie and the Tea Party? I can imagine her being a star at the Teddy Bear's Picnic.

  • Comment number 71.

    69 S_C

    What were you right about on Obama, Susan? Remind us.

  • Comment number 72.

    According to a BBC report:"David Cameron has said new treaties on defence and nuclear joint working with France marked a "new chapter" in a long history of defence co-operation."

    I'm not sure what "long history" he is referring to. Perhaps Mr Cameron has forgotten that in July 1940 after the French signed a treaty with Hitler, the French Vichy Government refused to put their fleet 'out of reach' of the Germans, resulting in the British Navy opening fire on them, with over 1000 French killed. The French later retaliated by attacking the British fleet in Gibraltar.

    For further reading on this, see:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a1144973.shtml
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_on_Mers-el-K%C3%A9bir

    I'm very glad we are friends now, but to suggest a 'long history' of defence co-operation is wide of the mark. Much more recently, the French did not support US and British intervention against Saddam Hussein, which is why the so-called 'second resolution' was never sought at the UN.

    If there were to be some conflict in the future, it's difficult to see how this French/British ship-sharing scheme would actually work.

  • Comment number 73.

    Never bored Susan (69), even when I'm bored. You say I'm defending the "ginger rodent" remark and that you were right on Obama? Well I guess so - apart from I'm not (defending the GR remark) and you weren't (right about Obama). Or maybe you were right about him, but only if agreeing with a certain type of extreme right wing and distinctly odd American opinion is our new definition of being correct.

  • Comment number 74.

    Blame 71

    Obama is not the subject of the blog, if it becomes so, I will remind you. However as I recall, you were around at the time I was giving my opinion, therefore I am surprised you need reminding.

  • Comment number 75.

    I have to congratulate the decision to sign a treaty with france in regard to defence. Although not a big fan of the costly bureaucracy of europe and the way it panders more towards big business rather than individual workers, i think closer ties to europe is the way forward for the uk. Although there may be some problems with this in the future i hope even stronger links can be made. Im sure britain will always have some sort of independent army but i hope eventually there will be a european army in the main. This would hopefully mean less gun ho american lead wars that the uk is involved in. And the uk would then be part of a much wider body of countries should military action be needed. This could mean that the terrorist targeting would be more spread leaving the uk less volume targeted . Also a more considered and cautious army derived from many countries (and hence voices) to match americas might would hopefully not follow the path of world military dominance that has seen the rise of terrorism partly due to americas foreign/military policies. A sort of rebalancing of power.
    Of course the united nations gets criticised as a talking shop. But the damage from america and the uk going alone in iraq did major damage to the UN. We can see in iraq that under the new democracy there is still sectarian violence, hanging, torture etc. The factions that were protected by Saddam are now the targets and in reality after all the thousands of deaths due to the war, the country is arguably in a worse condition than before. A strong UN with a strong european voice (backed with the credibility of a strong european army) may have been able to stop america going it alone.

  • Comment number 76.

    Sarkozy says "If you, my British friends, have to face a major crisis, could you imagine France simply sitting there, its arms crossed, saying that it's none of our business?"

    Well, frankly Nicolas, yes, since that's what's happened on every previous occasion.
    It's like something from Eurotrash - "my British friends" indeed. I can't hel wondering what the headlines in the Express would have been if Labour had done this. Suggestions please?

  • Comment number 77.

    60. At 4:57pm on 02 Nov 2010, JohnConstable wrote:

    Yes, folks, the English do not even have their own national anthem.


    Actually, we do. It's the National Anthem. We removed a verse that the Scots didn't like after the Act of Union.

    I agree that it's a dirge. Everyone else seems to have the sort of anthem you can sing along to, or tum-te-tum along to in the likely event that you don't know the words. (Except the American one, which although a good tune is difficult to sing on account of its demanding range). It's the only reason I watch the Olympics.

  • Comment number 78.

    What happens if we want to invade France?

  • Comment number 79.

    # 77 Its_an_Outrage

    "We removed a verse that the Scots didn't like after the Act of Union."

    Yes, it's interesting how far the English go to please the Scots - including all this mucking around with the clocks every year, and also paying them lots of money so that Scottish students can have subsidised university education, while English students in Scotland are being charged extra!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2005/jul/20/tuitionfees.students

    Perhaps this should be challenged in the courts, because it is certainly discrimination.

    If Scotland eventually breaks away completely from the UK, perhaps we should put the missing verse back...

  • Comment number 80.

    74. Susan-Croft wrote:

    Blame 71
    Obama is not the subject of the blog, if it becomes so, I will remind you. However as I recall, you were around at the time I was giving my opinion, therefore I am surprised you need reminding.


    Can't remember every one of your posts Susan. Vaguely remember you didn't like him. Can't recall why exactly.

  • Comment number 81.

    Spare a thought for Henry V tonight, he'll be turning in his grave!

    From Shakespeare's King Henry V

    To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
    God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
    By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
    Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
    It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
    Such outward things dwell not in my desires;
    But if it be a sin to covet honour,
    I am the most offending soul alive...


    And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered,
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Life_of_Henry_the_Fifth.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Agincourt

  • Comment number 82.

    British Units will have the equipment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

    French Units will have the equipment on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

    On alternative Sundays, the equipment will be on show in Portsmouth or Cherbourg, where, for a small fee, the public may have a guided tour, surcharges apply to view secret equipment. All proceeds to go to the MEPs hardship fund.

    The British will only be able to use the equipment for war-fighting during the month of August, when the French all go on holiday.

    In the unlikely event of the French undertaking any war-fighting, the British will have to take charge of the said equipment by tea-time, otherwise the French will surrender it to the enemy.

    Should war break out between Britain and France, the French will surrender the equipment immediately, collaborate as required and claim to have been members of the Marquis to everyone when hostilities cease. The British will take charge of the equipment and carry out COSHH assessments before filling out H&S paperwork (in triplicate), assisted by French collaborators, whereupon hostilities shall be deemed to have ceased. British and French Units will then have a victory parade through Paris, place of honour being given to French Marquis units.

    The equipment cannot be used against an enemy armed with French military equipment.

    The British have had no significant sales of military equipment abroad for some years now, it is anticipated that most foreign owned British military equipment is now housed in museums. However, should the British be successful in selling off their recently increased stock of surplus military equipment, then the equipment cannot be used against any enemy nations which buy this surplus stuff.

    All equipment must be returned fully fuelled and undamaged.

  • Comment number 83.

    I have no problem with new treaties. I have no problem with sharing nuclear expertise or using foreign air carriers as this is advantageous to Britain. But I’m not so sure about a joint air-wing. Our BRITISH forces are admired and are something that we can definitely be proud of.

    By combining with France, we are committing to a contract that - maybe strengthens our bond with France – but also takes away the patriotism of fighting for OUR country. Anyway since when have two countries decided to act in all the same conflicts? What’s going to happen when Britain wants to go to war and France doesn’t or vice versa – who is to say what War we should enter? If it were a step towards a common European defence, I would prefer to have more than two countries committing to such a contract to make it worthwhile…

  • Comment number 84.

    'What happens if we want to invade France?'

    That would be akin to one NUT attacking another and The Lisbon Treaty makes that verboten, just like secession. You are seeing the UK Balkanise, aka go NUTs (aka Regional Development Agencies?)

    [For definition of NUT see [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 85.

  • Comment number 86.

    A few vacuous questions make this a non blog.

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    Feduplittlefellow

    It's the Maquis, not the marquis! Funny how one little mistake can ruin the overall effect of an other wise entertaining, although bigoted and cliché parody.
    Not to mention that making fun of the tens of thousands of men and women who died in the resistance is of poor taste to say the least.

  • Comment number 90.

    @82 feduplittlefellow

    I shouldn't think the French would want you anywhere near them. I wouldn't.

  • Comment number 91.

    79. At 8:54pm on 02 Nov 2010, DistantTraveller wrote:
    # 77 Its_an_Outrage

    "We removed a verse that the Scots didn't like after the Act of Union."

    Yes, it's interesting how far the English go to please the Scots - including all this mucking around with the clocks every year, and also paying them lots of money so that Scottish students can have subsidised university education, while English students in Scotland are being charged extra!


    Brilliant! Straight to the heart of the issue.




  • Comment number 92.

    feduplittlefellow : Hilarious comment ; bigoted ,sure , xenophobic of course what do you expect , but if that helps you thru the night ...
    and this kind of feeling is one of the principal reason this sham of a treaty will die once Lil' Bush is out of office (his Nato-loving and american-worshipping crowd are thin on the ground in his own party - understatement of the year).

    What "marquis" have to do with it is anybody guess.



    Fail but feel free to try again.



  • Comment number 93.

    "And the uk would then be part of a much wider body of countries should military action be needed. This could mean that the terrorist targeting would be more spread leaving the uk less volume targeted."

    Ah Lefty, your view is so simplistic, so one dimensional, so lowest common denominator, so....Fabian.

    I'm not trying to pick a fight with you for the sake of it, but it just doesn't work like that.

    You cannot assume that every time your military forces are needed that it is going to be exclusively against an Islamist extremist threat or in
    counter-insurgency or terrorism.

    You cannot make the strategic decisions necessary to set up and equip such organisations based on the assumption that this is always going to be what you're up against - procurement times are long, decisions to equip forces have to be taken with a very long strategic view of the threats you not only face now, but are LIKELY to face in 10, 20, 30 years time.

    You have to take into account the possibilities of state on state conflict, particularly in a world of diminishing resources, such as fossil fuels, clean available drinking water, food, etc, not to mention nuclear proliferation and regional hegemony by countries such as Iran.

    There are any number of potential flashpoints, some dependent on regional hegemony, others not. Border disputes, fifth columnists, political or religious ideology, all manner of things.

    And secondly, continuing on the Islamist threat path, if you figure that if there are more differing members of any such "coalition of the willing" that it makes you collectively, proportionally less likely to
    reprisals, you may be mistaken. Thats a big gamble to take.

    You would choose who you would assist, in the event of a conflict on the basis of whether your potential adversary's more barmy followers (who incidentally, you've patronised for years and allowed to spout hatred on your own streets, feted by your own capital city's mayor, unmolested by the police whilst you arrest people for reading out the names of the war dead at the cenotaph) have the capability to mix home made explosives in a bath?

    And you'd stand there on the steps of Number 10 saying "well, we dont like having to do this and theres a possibility of reprisals against us, but, hey at least the other partners are at least as likely as us to be blown up by home grown extremists"? You either believe in what you are doing, you have resolve to see it through, or you dont. Thats how you end up with the situation that there is in Afghanistan now. All the Talib's have to do is wait and the west will walk away and they will return to power. ISAF may have the stomach for a long war of attrition, the Talibs certainly do, but the Western politico's and their populations do not.

    So, you potentially are going into a conflict, where your own troops face almost certain death, sons and daughters of YOUR electorate, where they know before they set off on the air-bridge to get to their destination that the population AND the political masters who sent them there dont really believe in it and as a result, will not back them to the hilt when they put their lives on the line. A recipe for disaster.

    You'd end up like Belgium. You'd never go anywhere or do anything and barely be able to protect your own soil. Which is fine, if thats what you want. But just say so, instead of dancing round the houses.

    "Also a more considered and cautious army derived from many countries (and hence voices) to match americas might would hopefully not follow the path of world military dominance that has seen the rise of terrorism partly due to americas foreign/military policies. A sort of rebalancing of power."

    "Considered and cautious" is never going to give you a counter balance to American political and military hegemony. "Considered" and "Cautious" potentially gets you slaughtered on the battlefield.

    You are also banking on this coalition of the willing having synonymous foreign policy objectives, which is not something you can take for granted. Not just now, but in 20, 30, 40 years time.

    Also, you're assuming that going forward over the next fifty years that the dominant political and military power is always going to be the US. Not something you should take as read, with the continuing emergence of the BRIC countries, especially China. You cannot - and in this case, have not - taken account of the distinct possibility of the US populace getting sick of the bodybags coming home and being fed up of playing world policeman and in future becoming more militarily isolationist.

    China for one, is making significant political inroads in places where the US does not (especially in Africa) possess as much influence and she is doing it largely peacefully. The rest of the world will not notice it until things like the shipping routes around the Cape or in the Far East or Middle East are controlled by China.

    That regime may not always be friendly to you and may at some point do something you fundamentally disagree with. And yet, because of your short term political hatred of America, you stood by and allowed them to gain an ascendency out of spite without thinking of the potential consequences. I'm not saying the US doesnt need to be reeled in from its more hawkish position on occasions, it does. But, there are ways and means of trying to do that.

    What "more voices" will give you is legions of committees where nothing gets done, agreement is never reached or is very heavily caveated (such as the UN presence on the Israel/Lebanon border for instance or during the Bosnian war) and your population are left watching TV every night while 24 hour news reporters with blue kevlar vests gravely speak of the latest atrocities of defenceless men, women and children are massacred into shallow graves on hillsides whilst the world stands round and does nothing.

    Do you remember Srebrenica?

    You're again in danger of thinking that the Islamic threat is a) only something that has happened since Dubya and Blair were elected and b) the only threat out there. The Islamist threat has, at least, been around since the creation of the state of Israel.

    The difference is that they have become significantly better organised, better equipped and more effective against their chosen targets than what they were in the beginning. This gives them a significantly higher profile as a result.

    And I repeat, they are not the only potential threat.

    "Of course the united nations gets criticised as a talking shop. But the damage from america and the uk going alone in iraq did major damage to the UN."

    Not just a talking shop, but a paper tiger, without teeth. Anyone who is determined to do something bad isnt going to pay the slightest bit of attention to the UN, never has and never will. Gamel Abdul Nasser, General Galtieri, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, virtually every single Israeli president since 1948, GW Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair... the list is endless.

    There was no consequential damage to the UN. The UN, once the weapons inspectors were kicked out of Iraq by Saddam effectively played no further part.

    Similarly with Afghanistan. When you consider that ISAF is there under a UN mandate, is it not surprising, following your logic that the UN building in New York or other such UN facilities around the globe have not been openly targetted by the all pervading Islamic extremist threat?

    "A strong UN with a strong european voice (backed with the credibility of a strong european army) may have been able to stop america going it alone."

    You couldn't stop them from going it alone. They, along with the Soviet Union-era Russia are the only nation, not just at this precise moment in time, but for the last 40 years, who have had the ability, the equipment and the structures that allow true global force projection.

    The Chinese dont have it yet, because although they have the numbers in uniform, they do not have the Carrier Strike or Amphibious expeditionary capability....yet.

    But they will. Within 10-20 years, they will have it, be assured of that. But I digress.

    In this case, the US would still have gone in alone, however misguided this particular expeditionary adventure was.

    Your problem is, the UN does not have a strong voice, because not everyone, even the permanent members of the Security Council want the same things and are hamstrung by their own self-interests.

    Likewise the EU. "A strong European army" that is also "considered" and "cautious"? (Totally oxymoronic, by the way)

    Under the command of whom?

    The EU Council?

    Herman Van Rumpouy? Jose Manuel Barroso? Cathy Ashton and company?

    A man who could barely hail a cab in his own country, let alone stop traffic? A woman who'se previous political prominence came about as Treasurer of CND?

    You'd rely on these unelected men or women to decide and lead on Foreign policy objectives and potential flashpoints and warzones and the response to, by about three quarters of a million troops and hundreds of millions of citizens?

    There is already a structure in place. NATO. It works. It has kept the previously constantly warring states in Europe at peace for over 60 years. There is no need for a further layer on behalf of the EU.

    What you'd end up getting is swapping the dominance of one hegemonic regime (the US) for another, even more unaccountable, unrepresentative and unelected one.

    I'd like to recommend a book to you or anyone else who thinks that an EU force is a good thing. Read "Cauldron" by Larry Bond if you can find it, it may be out of print. Any charity shop in the high street might have it. Read and inwardly digest, even if you think it a bit too redneck for you.

  • Comment number 94.

    65, 73#

    Racing off topic again, Saga. Funny how the rest of us get modd'ed for that but you dont seem to. Cant imagine why.

  • Comment number 95.

    52. At 3:51pm on 02 Nov 2010, JohnConstable wrote:
    There is also a political dimension to take into consideration vis-a-vis the EU and NATO.

    At present, the long established NATO is the driver but over time, I expect that NATO will be supplanted by the EUDF.

    That is, NATO assets held within the EU sphere will become (solely) EUDF assets.
    =========================================================================

    I will first state that I have reservations in as far as how effective NATO and in fact the UN are and have been over the years. However to suggest that an EUDF could take over their roles is just laughable. For a start NATO is funded unproportionally by the US and I can't imagine they would be big contributors to an EUDF. Secondly the EU has difficulty in agreeing how straight a banana can be how are they to agree with going to war against another nation and what if that nation is part of the EU. Lastly we have to look at the vested interests around the world. The Falklands has been brought up, how could the French as part of the EUDF support an action against Argentina when they where and still are a major arms supplier to them. The same can be said of the UK in other countries. Oil in the middle east is also another area that drives international policy amongst various nations, not to mention other trading activities.

    There are a few other issues with the EUDF which are just internally focused. Such as the Irish who wish to be neutral and take part in no military activities. How can you let a nation opt out, they would still be comp-able by association. You also have the German constitution which would have to be changed, a step too far maybe!

    The only way an EUDF would work would be is if there were a United States of Europe. And even then the EUDF would be far down the list to achieve. A unified tax system should take a decade at least to sort out not to mention the monetary policy. Then there is the unified social policy. Perhaps the unified health care. What about Education. There is just so much more.

    Just working out a voting system that meets all nations needs and expectations could take several years.

    Viva La Difference!

  • Comment number 96.

    Personally I think making constructive decisions about the country's defence is a good thing - better than Gordon Brown burying his head in the sand, starving the MoD of funds for fighting a war and yet allowing mad purchases of aircraft carriers to be built in his constituency.

    Also good to see that Dave didn't make a big grandstanding hoohar about the toner bomb and left the home secretary to go to COBR.
    They may not be perfect and we'll all be complaining about them in 10 years time but they're certainly better than the last lot.

  • Comment number 97.

    62. At 5:15pm on 02 Nov 2010, JohnConstable wrote:

    The blame must lie with meddling politicians down the decades and their grotesque (continuing) experiments with education, which has simply been unable to generate a quantity of engineers and scientists for industry (or even enough people with basic skills).

    Consequently, we now have very little skin left in the defence game - its more like a bleached skeleton.


    hear hear.

    As for Nick's blogs - they seem to get more like gossip over the garden fence as each month goes by.

    Nick, perhaps a collaboration with TV5 may prove helpful, but who knows where that may end - I can only speculate.

  • Comment number 98.

    "What happens if we want to invade France?" debt juggler @ 78

    I’m sure the driver here is cost cutting, rather than high minded principle, and I’m equally sure that the UK aspect of the agreement was signed off by the real Prime Minister – the spooky and enigmatic George Osborne - but nevertheless the above question brings out the main benefit, the reason we should applaud. What does happen if we want to invade France, or they want to invade us? Well nothing happens, and this is the point. If we’re sharing weapons ... the wherewithal to make trouble and cause foreigners enormous distress and damage ... it makes such a prospect impossible. Before each and every offensive action, the French would have to request our permission. “Is it okay if we use Big Bertha tomorrow? We need to raze North London to the ground.” It’s going to be a “No”, isn’t it? Even if it’s only Norwich, it’ll still be a No. Or a “Non” if it’s us asking them. Not regarding Norwich obviously (we wouldn’t do that) but regarding, say, Le Touquet. The tumultuous Anglo French wars of 2025 to 2032 will not now grace the history books of the future. Unadulterated good news - armed conflict between nations is a deeply sub-optimal state of affairs, let’s remember. The more treaties like this, and the more nations who sign up to them, the better. It's called Progress.

  • Comment number 99.

    Have to wonder about our media sometimes. Last night on Newsnight, Kirsty Wark asked Malcolm Rifkind if the language difference between UK and French troops would create practical problems in a theatre of war.
    Showing some restraint he pointed out the blindingly obvious existing example of NATO troops working together, where there are somewhat more than two languages to contend with. Although English and French are the two 'official' languages of NATO, I believe English is the one used commonly in military operations. As with any joint project between countries with different languages there will be problems. Obvious? Just a bit.

  • Comment number 100.

    95#

    All excellent points Chris, very relevant.

 

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