23rd Oct 2016

Anglo-French summit to agree on defence but not EU reform

  • Cameron and Hollande - set to agree on defence but little else (Photo: G8 UK)

David Cameron and Francois Hollande are expected to agree a raft of measures on defence co-operation but draw a blank on EU reform when they meet on Friday (31 January)

The UK and French leaders will meet for talks in London for the first Anglo-French summit since Hollande's election in May 2012.

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Officials says that the main focus of the summit will be on defence, where a €150 million feasibility study into the technology behind an Anglo-French combat drone project will be unveiled. The leaders are due to inspect a prototype of the drone at the summit venue, a military airfield.

Other agreements are likely to include the £500m joint purchase of anti-ship missiles, alongside a deal to co-operate on nuclear power research and space and satellite technology.

The two countries are the EU's biggest spenders on defence - splashing out €92 billion in 2012 - and led the bloc's response to the Libya crisis in 2011-12. Cameron also signed a bilateral treaty on defence co-operation with Hollande's predecessor, Nikolas Sarkozy, in 2010, aimed at pooling arms and equipment and working together on anti-terrorism policy.

They are also on track to create an Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) by 2016.

Following official talks in London, the two leaders will then travel to Cameron's local constituency in Oxfordshire for lunch in the prime minister's local pub, where discussion is likely to shift to the trickier matter of EU reform, where the two leaders are in open disagreement.

Cameron wants the EU to focus on reducing the regulatory burden on businesses, particularly by targeting health and safety legislation. He has also promised to renegotiate Britain's EU membership terms, followed by a referendum in 2017, provided his Conservative party wins re-election in 2015.

However, the French president does not favour a formal re-opening of the EU treaties any time soon.

Officials close to Hollande have signalled that it is "very, very unlikely" he would agree to treaty changes by 2017. Neither is Hollande receptive to Cameron's demands for special treatment for the UK's financial sector.

The summit also follows criticism by both the UK and French governments over the state of the other's economy.

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Canada said on Friday that the free-trade agreement with the EU had failed and that the bloc was "not capable" of concluding agreements.

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