Tighter Franco-British military cooperation

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande agreed during the 34th Franco-British summit on 3 March that by April this year the two countries would have set up the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF), a Franco-British armed force that could be used in a wide range of crisis scenarios, up to and including high intensity combat operations.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande at the 34th Franco-British summit in Amiens (France) on 3 March 2016

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande at the 34th Franco-British summit in Amiens (France) on 3 March 2016

Separate from the EU’s CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy), the CJEF will be available at short notice for UK-French bilateral operations, or for EU, NATO and UN operations. As part of the increasingly close military ties between France and the UK, the two countries will, for the first time, exchange senior officers for permanent positions in each other’s army.

An as-yet unnamed French brigadier general will become second-in-command of one of the UK army’s two frontline divisions, the 1st (UK) Division in York from August.

1st (UK) Division insignia. This is the version for desert operations

1st (UK) Division insignia. This is the version for desert operations

Theoretically this French general could lead British troops into combat. A British Army spokesman, quoted by the Financial Times in February, said 1st Division also has a British deputy commander, Brigadier James Carr-Smith and the decision on who would lead the troops, were the commanding officer be unavailable, would depend on the situation.

London has already named Colonel (and not General as mistakenly reported in the French press) Nick Nottingham, to be second-in-command of the Etat-Major de Force 1 (EMF1) in Besançon. Nottingham is a fluent French-speaker who has followed a number of courses at the Paris War College.

Cameron and Hollande also agreed to invest over €2bn to launch a new phase in 2017 of their unmanned combat air system (UCAS) with the “scale 1” development of a UCAS operational demonstrator, a decision which “delighted” Dassault Aviatin and its partners.

Etude de concept SCAF (Système de Combat Aérien Futur).     /     FCAS (Future Combat Air System) candidate design.

FCAS (Future Combat Air System) candidate design. Credit: Dassault Aviation

The two leaders also agreed to step up efforts to counter Islamist extremism in Nigeria and across the Sahel, notably against Boko Haram, by training soldiers and offering operational support to security institutions as well as financial support to the Multi-National Joint Task Force. They also agreed to step up stabilisation missions carried out by MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) and to extend the mandates of EUTM (European Union Training Mission) Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger, the CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) civilian mission launched at the request of Niger’s government in the summer of 2012.

Cameron said he, Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would be calling Russian President Vladimir Putin today (4 March) to “underline that Russia needs to end its attacks on Syrian civilians and the moderate opposition.” Hollande called on Turkey’s leaders to understand that they “also have a responsibility and that they must understand that an agreement is in the interests of stability for the region.”

But Cameron also used the 34th Franco-British Summit for domestic policy purposes, stressing “how our partnership within the European Union [EU] makes a tangible difference to the scale and breadth of what we can achieve together.” He noted that it was thanks to the EU that sanction were imposed against Russia when it invaded Crimea illegally, and that sanctions also brought Iran to the negotiating table. He stressed that it is “through co-operation and intelligence-sharing with our European partners that we best fight cross-border crime and terrorism, giving us strength in numbers.”

We believe we are safer, and better off in a reformed European Union,” he said.