France and United Kingdom

Presentation

  • French Ambassador to the United Kingdom: Mr Jean-Pierre Jouyet (since September 2017)
  • British Ambassador to France: Lord Edward Llewellyn (since 9 November 2016)

Political relations

Our bilateral relations are driven by frequent contact at all levels, including regular summits. 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. Our cooperation is governed by the 2010 Lancaster House treaties, with operational and armament cooperation aspects as well as the objective of forging closer ties between our defence industries. The progress of our cooperation in these three areas is kept track of in dedicated formats, with regular meetings.

The year 2016 saw very positive results in all three areas: 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, demonstrating the quality of our defence cooperation.

The UK’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) is in favour of continuing our bilateral cooperation in the Lancaster House framework.

Commemorations of the centenary of the First World War

£50 million (€62 million) was allocated to the UK’s commemoration programme, covering, in addition to the commemorations of joining 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).

Visits

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.

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 July 2017: visit by the Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May.

Economic relations

With a market share of 5.8%, France is one of the United Kingdom’s leading trading partners. According to French customs, French exports of goods to the United Kingdom stood at €31.8 billion in 2016 (fifth-largest customer), as against €23.2 million for British imports from France (seventh-largest supplier).

The United Kingdom thus accounted for France’s largest trade surplus for trade in goods (€11.8 billion), well ahead of Hong Kong (€4.6 billion) and Singapore (€3.9 billion), essentially thanks to exports of automobile vehicles (7.6% of exports), aircraft and space vehicles (7.1%) and pharmaceuticals (5.5%).

France also posted a surplus for trade in services (€3.1 billion in 2016), largely arising from transport and travel services. Trade in goods and services has remained stable for the last four years, although their level has fallen compared to ten years ago (€50.6 billion in 2016, as against €57 billion in 2007).

In terms of investment, the United Kingdom was the fourth destination for French foreign direct investment (FDI) stocks in 2016, while the United Kingdom was the third-largest foreign investor in France (11.7%) behind Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In 2015, France was this behind 116 investment projects in the United Kingdom (8,000 jobs), while the United Kingdom invested in 81 projects in France (3,000 jobs).

These close ties are visible in several economic projects of key importance, including the construction of two European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPR) at Hinkley Point by EDF, for a total amount of £18 billion. Veolia was recently awarded two contracts for the construction and operation of an incinerator and for the recycling and management of waste in South London (£338 million). PSA is also present in the country since purchasing Vauxhall (Opel) for €900 million (35,000 jobs and two plants in the United Kingdom). Source: French Directorate-General of the Treasury (August 2017)

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 bilateral administrative arrangement on educational cooperation, signed on 9 June 2006, provides an official framework and momentum in this sector, which involves 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), with a capacity of over 1000 pupils, opened in September 2015.

There are almost 14,000 French students in the UK, while about 3000 British students are studying in France.

Further information, visit the website of the Institut Français: www.institut-francais.org.uk/

Other cooperation

Cooperation on security and combating illegal immigration

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.

The 20 August 2015 joint ministerial declaration on UK/French cooperation provides a roadmap for the development of enhanced bilateral cooperation in the context of the migration crisis. Our priorities include dismantling people smuggling networks, establishing dialogue with countries of origin and transit, and supporting vulnerable people.

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.

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 led by Patricia Barbizet, former CEO of Christie’s, 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.

The programme began in summer 2017 with a first group and a session in the United Kingdom.

Updated: September 2017

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