Recently, in Paris, David Cameron stated that he didn’t believe “there has been closer French-British co-operation at any time since the Second World War.” The simple response to this: Suez, 1956.

We will forgive Cameron for forgetting the final time Anglo-French co-operation was close enough to make a decision that was independent of American influence. It ended in disaster as the greed and desperation of imperial decay was exposed to the world.

Ever since Suez, co-operative foreign policy has been strained to say the least. However, despite the underlying patronage of American neo-liberalism, the relative success of the Libyan intervention last year can be seen as a success. It is presumably in light of Libya, and the small matter of a multi-million pound agreement on co-ordinated defence and civil nuclear energy, that prompted Cameron to be so seemingly positive.

We are similar-sized powers, with similar-sized armed forces, with similar ambitions.

There is no doubt that the implementation of a joint command and control centre for military operations will make a big difference to the military capabilities of both Britain and France. But, moreover, it is a decision based on financial necessity as Sarkozy made very: “to come in and help us shoulder the financial burden.”

As if to justify the military agreement, which also sees the completion of a number of unmanned fighter drones by 2020, Cameron commented, “We are similar-sized powers, with similar-sized armed forces, with similar ambitions.” The first two statements here are true, but the third is arguable.

…the government claims will create 1,500 UK jobs…

To imply that either Britain or France have ambitions that are related to their armed forces, surely implies an active foreign policy of aggression? Our armed forces should be used as a responsive unit, mobilised out of necessity for the purposes of humanitarianism, but never harbouring “ambition”. Secondly, recent history hasn’t suggested similar military ambitions: you only need to compare the levels of participation in the Gulf War or, more recently, in Afghanistan to realise that the two countries’ military paths are divergent.

The two leaders have also agreed a deal on civil nuclear energy which the government claims will create 1,500 UK jobs together with commercial deals worth more than £500m. In many respects, investment into companies such as Rolls-Royce is needed to stimulate growth within the economy. It is a question of whether a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset can justify this investment. Global experiences suggest it isn’t the best venture.

…American foreign policy will never be replicated by François Hollande…

The nuclear deal does however have wider implications for Britain and France on the world stage. If you could choose one way to further antagonise the Iranians in the week that criticism of their uranium enrichment program has reached new levels, it would be to announce a huge nuclear deal of your own.

Increasing levels of co-operation between Britain and France must surely be a good thing. It is just a pity that these talks in Paris appear to be an attempt to push through deals as quickly as possible when considering Sarkozy’s dubious ability to get re-elected. His sympathies to American foreign policy will never be replicated by François Hollande, suggesting Washington’s desires for an increasingly militarised West were behind today’s announcements.

…why has it taken until now for the government to even announce aid packages…

Cameron and Sarkozy did take time to comment on Syria as well. They referred to the situation as appalling, but said that differing circumstances meant a Libya style intervention was not possible. They may well be right in approaching the issue with caution, not least because there is no UN mandate for an intervention, together with the fact that neither country can at this time afford military mobilisation.

But if the ‘ambition’ they supposedly showed in Libya was legitimate, why has it taken until now for the government to even announce aid packages when Cameron freely admits the Assad regime is butchering and murdering its own people? Speculation will answer no questions and only fuel conspiracy but perhaps not intervening is seen as the lesser of two evils. Perhaps Assad is being maintained in power to keep a tab on Iranian aggression? 

 

About The Author

History undergraduate at King's College London. Main interests in diplomacy and international relations but also enjoy writing about home affairs.

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