The tenth anniversary of the Lancaster House Treaties highlights the crying need to inject new life into bilateral cooperation that is currently running out of steam through bad dynamics. Brexit serves only to accentuate the difficulties, hence the need for a political re-launch that has clear support on both sides of the Channel.
Beyond Brexit: a Necessary Re-launch of Cooperation
Franco-British defence cooperation has seen major advances since 2010, which include the TEUTATES programme, the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, One MBDA and counter-terrorism, yet also some failures, particularly in the field of capability, including the aircraft carrier, the future air combat system and tactical drones. As long ago as 2014 and the quarrels over reform of the EU, and more so since 2016 and the Brexit vote, the Franco-British link has not seemed a priority and political support for it has all but vanished on both sides of the Channel. And yet this relationship remains essential: strong Franco-British cooperation is vital to the security of both states and, more generally, to that of the continent.
The importance of Franco-British defence and security relations is the result of their significant military capabilities, their status as nuclear powers, their membership of the UN Security Council and their similar strategic perspectives and cultures. From these, a number of needs in common led London and Paris to seal an ambitious rapprochement in 2010 involving preservation of safe and effective nuclear arsenals, budgetary savings to be made though joint acquisition of weapons systems, integration of their industries and improving the interoperability of their armed forces. All of which corroborated a contribution to the European capacity to take greater control over its own security at a time when the United States was turning towards Asia.
These arguments all remain valid and indeed are even stronger today: Franco-British cooperation has been made ever more essential in the context of Brexit, confirmation of American withdrawal from the European area, challenges of new technologies and the many-faceted threats that China and Russia now pose. If France and the United Kingdom do not manage to rekindle their bilateral partnership now and advance together in the face of these challenges, it could have long-term effects, for structural strategic decisions need to be made right away. The clear political support of the two partners and cooperative pursuance of new projects are needed to stave off the risk of lasting strategic divergence between the two European powers.
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