France and United Kingdom


Political relations

Our bilateral relations are driven by frequent contact at all levels and regular summits such as the 35th UK-France Summit which was held at the Sandhurst Military Academy on 18 January 2018. France and the United Kingdom are the only two European countries with nuclear weapons and are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Both have international ambitions and the political and military tools to match, often sharing similar approaches.

Defence cooperation

Defence cooperation is the most structural component of our bilateral relationship. Together, our combined defence budgets account for half the defence spending of the European Union. Defence cooperation between France and the UK is governed by the 2010 Lancaster House Treaties

Our defence cooperation is unique in all fields both for operations and capacity. The Sandhurst Summit in January 2018 and more recently our joint operations in Syria, alongside the US, have proven this once again. Recent years have seen very positive results: the declaration of the operational capability of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a binational force with up to 10,000 troops deployable at very short notice and capable of implementing high-intensity operations; the launch of the development phase of the new generation of Future Combat Air System (FCAS) aircraft; and the signing of an agreement on collaboration between our missile industries. The United Kingdom provided logistical support to French operations in Mali and the Central African Republic.


Visits to the United Kingdom

  • 26 March 2008: State visit by the President of the Republic, Mr Nicolas Sarkozy.
  • 4 February 2016: visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Mr Laurent Fabius (humanitarian conference on Syria).
  • 29 September 2016: visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault.
  • 17 February 2017: visit by the Prime Minister, Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, to London.
  • 16 November 2017: visit by the Minister of the Interior, Gérard Collomb, to London
  • 20 November 2017: visit by the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly
  • 18 January 2018: Bilateral summit: visit by the President of the Republic, Mr Emmanuel Macron, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of the Interior, Mr Gérard Collomb, Minister for European Affairs, Ms Nathalie Loiseau, Minister of Culture, Ms Françoise Nyssen and the Minister of State to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition.
  • 4 May 2018 visit by the Transport Minister, Elizabeth Borne
  • 14 July 2018: visit by the Foreign Secretary
  • 13 September 2018: visit by the Minister for European Affairs

Visits to France

  • 5-7 June 2014: State visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, for the commemoration of the 70ᵗʰ anniversary of the Normandy Landings.
  • 11 January 2015: visit by the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, and the Home Secretary, Ms Theresa May.
  • 28 May 2015: visit by the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, to Paris.
  • 24 September 2015: visit by the Foreign Secretary, Mr Philip Hammond, to Paris.
  • 23 November 2015: visit by the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, to Paris.
  • 3 March 2016 : visit by the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, the Home Secretary, Ms Theresa May, the Foreign Secretary, Mr Philip Hammond, and the Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Michael Fallon (UK-France Summit), to Amiens.
  • 3-4 May 2016: visit by Minister of State for Europe, Mr David Lidington.
  • 21 July 2016: visit by the Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May.
  • 28 July 2016: visit by the Foreign Secretary, Mr Boris Johnson.
  • 13 June 2017: visit by the Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May.
  • 23 October 2017: visit by Brexit Minister, David Davis
  • 27 October 2017: visit by Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson
  • 18 January 2018: Visit by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson, and Minister for International Development, Penny Mordaunt
  • 12 February 2018 visit by the Cabinet Office Minister, Mr David Lidington
  • 14 February 2018 visit of the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
  • 19 February 2018 visit by Brexit Minister, David Davis
  • 16 March visit of Scottish Culture Minister, Ms Fiona Hyslop
  • 28 May 2018: visit by the Minister of State for Africa and International Development, Ms Harriett Baldwin
  • 31 July 2018: visit by the Foreign Secretary, Mr Jeremy Hunt
  • 2 August 2018: visit by Brexit Minister, Mr Dominic Raab
  • 3 August 2018: visit by the Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May
  • 8 November: visit by the Foreign Secretary, Mr Jeremy Hunt
  • 9 November 2018: visit by the Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May (visit to the Thiepval Memorial)
  • 11 November 2018; visit by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Mr David Lidington (Commemoration of the 1918 Armistice).

Economic relations

With €31 billion in exports and €28 billion in imports, the United Kingdom was France’s 6th-largest customer in 2017 (6.7% of the total) and its 7th-largest supplier (5.1%). The trade surplus with the United Kingdom stood at €3.5 billion in 2017, behind bilateral surpluses with Hong Kong (€5.5 billion) and Singapore (€4.6 billion). France was the United Kingdom’s 3rd-largest customer (7.5% market share), behind the United States (14.3%) and Germany (11%) and the 5th-largest supplier (5.7%), behind Germany (14.5%), China (9.1%), the Netherlands (8.5%) and the United States (8%). In 2016, the France had a €3.2 billion trade surplus with the United Kingdom in the service sector.

The trade surplus with the United Kingdom fell by nearly €3 billion in 2017. This variation can be explained by a 0.8% drop in exports combined with a 10.9% increase in imports. The trade of aircraft and aerospace equipment largely explains these results. This change is also due to the smaller surplus for pharmaceuticals, which was partially compensated by the significant increase in surplus in the automotive sector. In 2017, the three main sectors with a surplus were wine (€1.1 billion), jewellery (€805 million) and perfumes and cosmetics (€757 million).

The trade in goods between France and the United Kingdom is characterized by intra-sector trade. The greatest intra-sector trade comes firstly from the automotive sector, secondly, aircraft and aerospace and thirdly from pharmaceutical preparations. Trade in services, however, has a much more diverse structure, with exports mainly focused on transport, business services and transport and imports centered around finance, business services and telecommunications.

The United Kingdom and France are major reciprocal investors. In 2016, the United Kingdom had a foreign direct investment stock of €77 billion in France, while France had €97 billion in FDI in the United Kingdom. In 2017, the United Kingdom had 89 FDI projects in France which account for over 6,000 jobs making it the fourth-largest investor in France, behind the United States, Germany and Italy. France has 131 FDI projects creating over 8,000 jobs making it the third-largest investor in the United Kingdom behind the United Kingdom and China.

In 2015, the United Kingdom was the country with the second-largest number of French businesses abroad, with over 3,000 subsidiaries representing approximately €140 billion in annual turnover and 390,000 jobs. The UK’s presence in France a was less significant, with a little over 1,000 British subsidiaries generating €22 billion in annual turnover and 82,000 jobs. Most of France’s major companies are present in the UK, including Engie (17,000 employees), Saint-Gobain (17,000), EDF (14,000), Veolia (14,000), Keolis (14,000), Vinci (9,000) and BNP Paribas (7,500). PSA also bought out Vauxhall (Opel) for €1.75 billion (2,500 jobs and two plants in the United Kingdom).

France’s presence is characterized by certain key projects including the EDF contract for two European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPR) at Hinkley Point, for a total amount of £18 billion. In 2017, Veolia was awarded two contracts for the construction and operation of an incinerator (£1 billion) and for the recycling and management of waste in South London (£338 million). Three consortiums with French businesses (Bouygues, Vinci and Eiffage) were awarded four of the seven contracts to build the UK’s second high-speed rail line. More recently, the joint venture between Keolis (70% share) and Amey won the franchise to run Wales’ rail services (£5 billion over 15 years).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

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

The UK remains the Western European country (excluding Belgium and Switzerland) where French is most widely studied.

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

The UK-France Summit on 18 January 2018 helped to relaunch the “Entente Cordiale” bursary programme and its financing.

As regards research, France and the UK decided to step up our cooperation through the Hubert Curien partnership programme for university exchanges.

Other cooperation

Cooperation on security and combating illegal migration

Cooperation in combating illegal immigration is a priority of the UK authorities and our bilateral cooperation which is multi-faceted and implemented under a series of bilateral agreements, including the 1991 Sangatte Protocol and the Le Touquet Treaty of 4 February 2003. 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.

With the aim of enhancing cooperation on and near to our shared border, we adopted the Sandhurst Treaty with the UK on 18 January 2018 which establishes a legal framework ensuring the essential aspects of our joint cooperation commitments regarding the border and migration will continue. The Treaty includes provisions destined to ensure that the Dublin III regulation is quickly implemented. The Treaty also sets the goal of improving joint action to fight against organized crime in the migration field and increase the number of irregular migrants returned to their country of origin.

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 and the provisions of the quadripartite Concession of 14 March 1986 concluded with 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.

Human, sporting and cultural exchanges

During the 18 January 2018 summit, the United Kingdom and France set a new approach to twinning programmes between their cities and regions, and set the target of 10 new twinnings every year until 2022.

The two countries also decided to exchange best practices regarding organization of sporting events based on the UK’s experience of hosting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the 2015 Rugby World Cup and ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup and 2024 Olympic Games which will be held in France.

As regards culture, a joint initiative for the protection of cultural heritage was decided upon, in conflict zones and areas where culture is under threat from nature. The Bayeux Tapestry will be loaned to the UK during the renovation of the Bayeux Museum which is planned to reopen in 2023 as the Bayeux Centre for Understanding Europe in the Middle Ages, as long as the legal and scientific restoration and preservation conditions are respected.

In addition, as part of the commemorations of the centenary of World War 1, France and the United Kingdom are supporting the Normandy Memorial Trust with its desire to build a memorial at Ver-sur-Mer in honour of the 22,000 soldiers who fell whilst serving under British command during the Battle of Normandy in 1944. The President of the French Republic and the UK Prime Minister will participate in the inauguration of the project in June 2019 as part of the commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.

Franco-British “Young Leaders” programme

At the UK-France Summit in March 2016, the British Prime Minister and French President announced a major bilateral initiative: the Franco-British Young Leaders programme.

Each year, 30-40 talented French and British citizens aged under 40 are selected by a panel in the business, cultural, media, academic, social, government and military sectors. The programme aims to deepen Franco-British understanding and collaboration at the highest level and establishes a give back / give forward ethos between future leaders from the two countries.

Updated: 3 December 2018