Political tensions have broken out in Paris, where the head of the French armed forces, General Pierre de Villiers, has resigned in protest at the savage defence cuts, amounting to around €1 billion, that President Emmanuel Macron is planning to undertake.
But this development does at least provide some comfort for our own country at a time of difficult cross channel relations in the wake of the Brexit vote. Above all it is a reminder of how much France needs Britain’s support and cooperation, despite the new president’s harsh rhetoric and veiled threats.
This is because if Macron is to avoid further resignations and crises then he will be highly dependent upon British military cooperation and support. His own armed forces are simply too cash strapped to work effectively without it.
This became most painfully clear during the Libya crisis in 2011, when even the combined resources of both western countries were quickly exhausted – particularly our supply of invaluable “smart weapons” – and both were soon forced to turn to the US for support.
And in 2010 such limitations prompted both governments to sign the 2010 Lancaster House agreement that pools some of our most important military resources. Particularly valuable and successful is the 5,000 strong Combined Joint Expeditionary Force.
The reputation and quality of our armed forces, in other words, gives our government real political leverage over Paris.
True, Mr Macron talks about a close defence arrangement with Berlin, but it is very questionable that Germany has either the military resources or the political will to replace Britain’s proven role.
Equally if Macron wants to restore French grandeur, and give his country some semblance of the role it once had as a key player on the world stage, then he cannot afford to alienate his British partners. If his recent rhetoric has certainly at times revealed such ambitions, then his defence cuts show a striking mismatch between his ends and means.
The resignation of the General is therefore a reminder that other countries, not just our own, are also riven with tension and disagreements. We need to recognise and exploit them if we are to get the best brexit deal.
Source: The Telegraph.