David Blackburn

Entente nouvelle?

Entente nouvelle?
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Could Britain and France share defence assets? Julian Glover’s column in the Guardian concludes:

‘As for the new carriers, they are, unlike much defence equipment, adaptable and manoeuvrable. They could sail to the rescue in Haiti or feed the hungry in Mogadishu as easily as obliterate Tehran. We should build and deploy the first, and persuade the French (whose own grandiose carrier doesn't work) to complete and equip the second: a shared fleet for two European nations that have yet to reconcile themselves to their more modest place in the world.’

Politicians on both sides of the Channel speak eagerly of deeper entente. But there is not always a way where there’s a will. A shared outlook is insufficient; France and Britain would have to share assets. Aircraft carriers, jets, helicopters, tanks will have to be joint owned, joint managed and joint run. Inevitably, that will raise a sovereignty issue. If that wasn’t hard enough, France remains wedded to the European Union and its defence institutions, such as the European Defence Agency. British governments of any hue are deeply opposed to pan-European defence initiatives, and rightly so if NATO's performance in Afghanistan is anything to go by. The poltical obstacles to entente nouvelle may prove insurmountable.