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 The Franco-British Council and Defence

 The subject of Defence has been a key theme debated throughout the history of the FBC, The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, responded to the report of a seminar in 2006 examining the contribution that the UK and France have made to European security since St Malo by expressing his "appreciation for the valuable contribution of the FBC to Anglo-French relations".

A further seminar at the French Residence followed in 2008 with Lord Robertson as a keynote speaker. In 2009 the then Minister of State for Defence Equipment, Quentin Davies MP accepted our invitation to a dynamic breakfast meeting with other key French and British individuals from industry and government. The main recommendations included seizing opportunities provided by the pressures on defence budgets to boost bilateral cooperation in procurement, according to a common industrial strategy and leading towards a greater acceptance of "mutual dependency".

In 2010 amidst gathering momentum, the FBC organised two Defence Roundtables. The first of these was a partnership event with RUSI, and took place at their headquarters in Whitehall followed by a dinner hosted by French Ambassador, SE Maurice Hourdault-Montagne at his Residence. The debate was held in the context of a recent British Green paper and ahead of the UK general election and sensitive issues such as protectionism and sovereignty were tackled head on. It was agreed that patience was going to be necessary but optimism was not absent from the new narrative on the Franco-British dimension. 

A follow up event was hosted by the British Ambassador, Sir Peter Westmacott in October 2010 at the British Embassy in Paris, again in partnership with RUSI. This addressed future security policy priorities and concentrated on sharing capabilities in a challenging industrial environment. The majority of participants favoured a step by step pace avoiding unaffordable programmes and allowing compatibility between French and British military doctrines. The military were positive although they warned that too high ambitions would be hard to deliver on the ground: the operational dimension needed to remain modest, at least at the outset. The desire to collaborate in a tight partnership was underlined in many interventions but all insisted that only a determined political will from the two leaders would launch the cooperation in the right direction. 

This political will was arguably made plain with the signing of the London Treaties on the 2nd of November. David Cameron said this marked "a new chapter in a long history of co-operation between Britain and France". Nicolas Sarkozy described as "unprecedented" a treaty which, amongst other things, provided for a joint expeditionary force, closer cooperation in the defence industry and the concrete possibility of cooperation in the nuclear sphere.

 We are delighted that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided a special grant to enable this new FBC Annual Defence Conference to be launched.