Britain and France Sign 50 Year Defense Pact : The Two-Way The agreement would create an intimate relationship between the two militaries. The deal would include sharing aircraft carriers, a new joint force and work on nuclear weapons.
NPR logo Britain and France Sign 50 Year Defense Pact

Britain and France Sign 50 Year Defense Pact

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron exchange documents, during the signing of a treaty at an Anglo-French summit at Lancaster House in London, Tuesday Nov. 2, 2010. Lionel Bonaventure/POOL, AFP hide caption

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Lionel Bonaventure/POOL, AFP

No one mentioned Agincourt. Or Waterloo. Or Trafalgar. Or even the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066. In an unprecedented move two countries that have spent much of the last thousand years in conflict signed a far reaching defense agreement yesterday.

The plan envisions joint use of aircraft carriers, the development of a 10,000 man joint expeditionary force, and intimate cooperation on nuclear weapons. The leaders of both countries were careful about saying their sovereignty would remain unaffected. The Guardian quoted both. Here's British PM David Cameron:

"Britain and France will be sovereign nations able to deploy our forces independently and in our national interest when we choose to do so.

"The two largest defence budgets in Europe are recognising that if we come together and work together we increase not just our joint capacity, but crucially we increase our own individual sovereign capacity so that we can do more things alone as well as together."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy:

"In France sovereignty is as touchy an issue as it is in Britain. Together we will be stronger. Together we will do better. Together we will better protect our values. We cannot solve problems of 21st century with the ideas of the 20th century."

In perhaps the most sensitive area of the pact, nuclear weapons scientists will work together at new research centers in both countries to test and monitor their nuclear arsenals.

Once concern being raised in Britain about the pact is any sort of dependence on using a French aircraft carrier. From the NYT:

The example often cited is the 1982 Falklands war, when France opposed Britain’s reconquest of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, and Argentina used French-made missiles to sink British ships.

President Sarkozy dismissed those concerns. But it does go to show you that hundreds of years of animosity just doesn't disappear overnight, or even over decades.