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The UK-France defence and security relationship


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The Policy Institute has worked with French think tank Institut Montaigne to assess the health of the UK-France defence and security relationship and make recommendations for how to improve cooperation between the two countries.

To do so, the two organisations established a taskforce comprising 20 top-level French and British defence and security experts and conducted interviews with current and former British and French officials from the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, diplomatic missions, Parliament, intelligence services and business leaders.

The taskforce concludes that while UK-France cooperation on defence and security has never been so valuable, it has also never been so fragile. It makes the following recommendations:

1. Tackle the security challenges raised by Brexit

  • Ensure that Brexit does not endanger security cooperation between the UK and the EU27.
  • Maintain border cooperation agreements.

2. Ensure the full implementation of the Lancaster House Treaties

  • Reinforce strategic dialogue and mutual knowledge through the creation of an annual UK-France Defence and Security Council and a more regular '2+2' dialogue.
  • Prepare the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force for operations.
  • Increase cooperation through shared training facilities and cooperation on maintenance of equipment.

3. Prepare for the future

  • Build Future Combat Air System capacity.
  • Increase cyber security cooperation by developing formalised and structured modes of cooperation, complementing the Lancaster House Treaties with a cyber security pillar and establishing a joint government taskforce to explore options for further cooperation.
  • Formulate a joint strategic vision to inform R&D planning.
  • Implement a formal intelligence framework between France and the UK.
  • Deepen joint defence engagement activities.
  • Use and strengthen officer exchange programmes.

Membership of the taskforce

Some members of the taskforce preferred to remain anonymous, while others were happy to be identified. These are as follows:

Lord Robertson, former NATO Secretary-General (chair, UK delegation); Bernard Cazeneuve, former Prime Minister (chair, French delegation); Patricia Adam, former President of the French National Assembly’s Committee on National Defence and Armed Forces; Nicolas Baverez, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe; Nick Butler, Visiting Professor, King’s College London; Patrick Calvar, former Chief of the General Directorate for Internal Security, Special Advisor at Institute Montaigne; Matthias Fekl, former Minister of the Interior; Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies, King’s College London; Ian King, former CEO, BAE Systems; Alain Le Roy, Diplomat and former Secretary General of the European External Action Service; Marwan Lahoud, Partner, Tikehau Capital, former CEO, MBDA; Dominique Moïsi, Special Advisor, Institut Montaigne; Benoît Puga, Grand Chancellor of the Légion d’Honneur and former Chief of the Special Military Staff of the President of the French Republic; Lord Ricketts, former Ambassador to Paris, former National Security Advisor.