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Liam Fox explains why Britain and France are increasing defence co-operation

By Tim Montgomerie

Flag-Pins-France-Great-Britain There are a number of reports this morning (Guardian and BBC) about Britain and France working more closely together on defence. At a special summit meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy, tomorrow, David Cameron will sign an accord that will usher in a new era of co-operation between Europe's two most important military powers. The new Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, told the Today programme that the two nations would be resuming the level of joint activity that was true of the Cold War years.

In an article for yesterday's Sunday Telegraph the Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, assured readers that Britain would retain sovereignty, increase reach and cut costs because of the co-operation:

  • This is a bilateral, not a supranational endeavour: "This is not a repeat of Tony Blair’s St Malo summit that called for deeper military co-operation through the EU. Nor is this a push for the EU Army that we oppose. This isn’t about substitution of British capability but about closer co-operation with our closest European ally. This is about achieving real capability and tangible results. This is also proof that co-operation in Europe doesn’t always have to be on a supranational EU level but on a nation-state to nation-state bi-lateral basis... I want to make it very clear that, if required, we maintain an autonomous capability to sustain a considerable and very capable military force in the field on an enduring basis."
  • The aim is to reduce costs and expand capabilities: "The aim of this week’s summit will be to strengthen the relationship at all levels and foster closer cooperation in a number of defence areas including joint training, bilateral cooperation on the acquisition of equipment and technologies, improved interoperability, and information sharing between our two militaries. It makes little sense for the two most powerful armed forces in Europe to be spending more than necessary on duplicate capabilities which could be delivered in a more cost effective manner."

Read Dr Fox's full piece.


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