Bilateral cooperation

Summary of France’s relationship with the United Kingdom

I. Introduction

In spite of its different ideas about the European enterprise, the United Kingdom is a crucial partner for France, not only in economic and commercial but also in diplomatic and political terms. In Europe, the UK and France share particular characteristics: our two countries are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and are equipped with nuclear weapons and projection capabilities. Our bilateral relations are nurtured by frequent contacts at every level and regular summits.

II. France and the UK

French Ambassador to the UK: Mme Sylvie Bermann (since September 2014).
UK Ambassador to France: Sir Julian King (since February 2016)

Political relations

France and the United Kingdom are the only two European countries that have nuclear weapons and are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Both countries have international ambitions and the political and military tools to match, often sharing similar approaches within international organizations, including the UN.

Our bilateral relations are driven by regular contacts at all levels, including annual summits. Joint initiatives, in particular during the financial crisis, have been frequent and productive. Dialogue in the context of the French Presidency of the G8/G20 was significant at many levels. The 34th Franco-British Summit (3 March 2016) took place in Amiens, northern France, marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and strengthening Franco-British cooperation on defence, counter-terrorism, migration, nuclear energy and trade. Space is also the subject of promising recent cooperation, and the French Space Agency (CNES) and the UK Space Agency are working together on earth observation.

Defence cooperation

The 31ˢᵗ bilateral summit held in London on 2 November 2010 marked a turning point for our relations in defence matters. The French President and the British Prime Minister signed two major treaties, known as the Lancaster House treaties, which were ratified in spring 2011 and are now in force.

- a defence and security treaty, concerning the operational aspect (joint exercises), the capabilities aspect, the research and development aspect, and the industrial aspect (missiles) of our military cooperation. Among other provisions, it provides for pooling of assets;
- a specific treaty, made possible by the first, on common facilities for nuclear cooperation.

The treaties also provide for the creation of a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, a rapidly deployable force that could be committed in bilateral operations but also in the framework of international coalitions. Large-scale exercises of the naval component (October 2012), air component (October 2013) and army component (May 2014) have marked major phases in the build-up of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, which will become operational in 2016.

The Franco-British summit of February 2012 supplemented the Lancaster House commitments through the announcement of the creation of a deployable Combined Joint Force Headquarters, expanded numbers of exchange officers, and a joint programme to develop combat drones.

The Brize Norton summit (31 January 2014) maintained the momentum of our defence cooperation. In accordance with the road map set out on 31 January 2014, the British and French defence ministers signed agreements in Farnborough on 15 July that year to initiate a feasibility study for a Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
UK logistical support in Mali and the Central African Republic demonstrated the quality of our defence cooperation.

Commemorations of the First World War centenary

£50 million (€62 million) was allocated to the United Kingdom’s commemoration programme, covering, in addition to the ceremonies to mark the UK’s entry into the war (4 August 2014), the events marking the beginning of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 2016) and other events to mark the Battles of Jutland, Gallipoli and Passchendaele and the signing of the Armistice (11 November 2018).


French visits to the United Kingdom

23-24 September 2015: visit by the Economy Minister, M. Emmanuel Macron.

28-29 September 2015: visit by the Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance, M. Jean-Marc Todeschini.

11 October 2015: visit by the Minister of Urban Affairs, Youth and Sport, M. Patrick Kanner (Rugby World Cup).

17-18 October 2015: visit by the Minister of State for Sport, M. Thierry Braillard (Rugby World Cup).

28-29 October 2015: visit by the Environment Minister, Mme Ségolène Royal.

29-30 October 2015: visit by the Minister of State for Digital Affairs, Mme Axelle Lemaire.

2 November 2015: visit by the Interior Minister, M. Bernard Cazeneuve.

11 November 2015: visit by the Minister of State for Digital Affairs, Mme Axelle Lemaire.

17 November 2015: visit by the Minister of Urban Affairs, Youth and Sport, M. Patrick Kanner (France-England football match).

10 December 2015: visit by the Interior Minister, M. Bernard Cazeneuve (meeting of G6 interior ministers).

4 February 2016: visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, M. Laurent Fabius (humanitarian conference on Syria).

5-6 March 2016: visit by the Minister of State for Sport, M. Thierry Braillard (European Track Cycling Championships).

14 April 2016: visit by the Economy Minister, M. Emmanuel Macron.

14-18 April 2016: visit by the Minister of State for Digital Affairs, Mme Axelle Lemaire.

21 April 2016: visit by the Defence Minister, M. Jean-Yves Le Drian (Exercise Griffin Strike).

11-12 May 2016: visit by the Finance Minister, M. Michel Sapin.

29 September 2016: visit of the Foreign Minister M. Jean-Marc Ayrault

British visits to France

• 11 January 2015: visit to Paris by Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May.

• 15 February 2015: visit to Paris by David Lidington, Minister of State for Europe.

• 28 May 2015: visit to Paris by Prime Minister David Cameron.

• 27 July 2015: visit to Paris by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

• 20 August 2015: visit to Calais by Home Secretary Theresa May.

• 24 September 2015: visit to Paris by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

• 23 November 2015: visit to Paris by Prime Minister David Cameron.

• 3 March 2016: visit to Amiens by Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon (Franco-British summit).

• 3-4 May 2016: visit by David Lidington, Minister of State for Europe.

• 21 July 2016: visite of Prime Minister Theresa May

• 28 July 2016: visit of Foreign Minister Boris Johnson

• 30 Août 2016: visit of Home Minister Amber Rudd

• 26 September 2016: visit of Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop

• 25 October 2016: visit of Defence Minister Sir Michael Fallon

Economic relations

There is considerable trade between our two countries, and in 2014, the UK was France’s fifth-largest export market (€30.279 billion) and eighth-largest supplier (€19.593 billion of imports). France is the fifth-largest customer and fifth-largest supplier to the UK, with a market share of almost 6%.

For the ninth year running, the United Kingdom accounted for France’s largest bilateral trade surplus (€10.68 billion of goods) in 2014.
On services, France is one of the few countries to generate a surplus vis-à-vis the United Kingdom (€3.1 billion in 2012), due to tourism. The bilateral surplus is explained in large part by good performance in the transport equipment and pharmaceuticals sectors.

Recent major contracts have included the selection of EDF Energy in late 2013 for the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant (two EPRs), one of the UK’s largest investments since the Second World War.

• Exports from France to the United Kingdom (2014): €30.279 billion
• Imports from the United Kingdom to France (2014): €19.593 billion
• French companies in the United Kingdom (2011 – INSEE): 3,232 companies – 379,455 jobs
• British companies in the United Kingdom (2013 – Invest in France Agency): 2,000 companies – more than 200,000 jobs
• Bilateral trade balance (2014): €10.68 billion
• Total trade (2014): €49.9 billion
• French FDI outflow (2013): €972 million;

Statistical sources: French Directorate-General of the Treasury (February 2015)

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Cultural and scientific exchanges, which involve a large number of people, are developing through direct links between universities, museums, institutes, research centres and foundations. Our cooperation seeks to promote the French language and the teaching of it, debate, and academic cooperation in the humanities, particularly with Cambridge. There is also an ongoing policy of supporting the cultural industries and French exporters on what is a highly buoyant market in many areas, including contemporary music, contemporary art, publishing, cinema and the audiovisual sector, and video games.

The bilateral administrative arrangement on educational cooperation, signed on 9 June 2006, provides an official framework and momentum in this sector (teacher training, school partnerships and exchanges on themes of common interest). The UK remains the Western European country (excluding Belgium and Switzerland) where French is most widely studied.

Following the opening in September 2011 of the bilingual French school in London (Collège français bilingue de Londres) with 700 places, the new international Lycée Winston Churchill (North-West London), catering for over 1,000 pupils, opened in September 2015.

There are close to 14,000 French students in the UK, while about 3,000 British students are studying in France.

Further information:

Other types of cooperation

Cooperation on security and combating illegal immigration
Cooperation in combating illegal immigration is a priority of the UK authorities and of our bilateral cooperation, which is multi-faceted and implemented in the framework of a series of bilateral agreements, in particular the 1991 Sangatte Protocol and the Le Touquet Treaty of 4 February 2003. In particular, it involves the implementation of border checks in the Channel and North Sea ports and the organization of juxtaposed control stations, especially on the Channel Tunnel Fixed Link. Respective information centres have been set up in Calais and Folkestone.

Moreover, France and the United Kingdom worked closely together to ensure the safety and security of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, which were held from 27 July to 12 August 2012 and from 29 August to 9 September 2012 respectively.

Channel Tunnel

The current legal regime applicable to the Channel Tunnel Fixed Link is defined by the provisions of the Treaty of Canterbury of 12 February 1986 concerning the Construction and Operation by Private Concessionaires of a Channel Fixed Link and the provisions of the quadripartite Concession of 14 March 1986 between the French and British governments and the concessionaire, Eurotunnel. An Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) was established “to supervise, in the name and on behalf of the two governments, all matters concerning the construction and operation of the Fixed Link.” It holds regulatory powers as regards the Fixed Link.

Updated 17 May 2016

Published on 02/05/2017

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