CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

'DEFENSIVE POSITIONS'

Our Committees’ new joint inquiry will be an opportunity to deepen Franco-British co-operation

By Jean-Jacques Bridey, President of the National Defence and Armed Forces Committee of the Assemblée Nationale & Julian Lewis, Chairman of the House of Commons Defence Committee

The House Magazine – 25 June 2018

The long-established defence relationship between France and the United Kingdom has been reinvigorated in recent years by the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement on 2 November 2010 and the Amiens summit of 3 March 2016. More recently, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, reaffirmed this trend at the Sandhurst summit on 18 January this year. That summit saw the announcement of a new discussion forum, that will be permanent and regularly used, for Franco-British cooperation.

Understandably, our two countries’ Parliaments have closely followed the collaboration of our respective governments in the fields of defence and security.  For a number of years, we have taken part in a series of meetings in Paris and London, most of them in the form of a Franco-British parliamentary working group on defence cooperation, in which our colleagues from the Lords and the Senate also take part. At our last meeting, on 7 February 2018, we decided to set up a joint inquiry of our two Committees to deepen the cooperation that has developed over recent years.

The ‘One Complex Weapon’ initiative is at the heart of our two countries’ bilateral cooperation. This covers a wide range of linked projects relating to missiles, such as FC/ASW, ANL-Sea Venom, renewal of the anti-air ASTER missile, mid-life renovation of the SCALP/Storm Shadow cruise missile, among others. We therefore thought it sensible to use our first joint inquiry to look at the issue of the next generation of anti-ship missiles.

The two Committees are each taking forward the inquiry according to their own rules of procedure. On the French side, the inquiry has been given to two co-rapporteurs, Mrs Natalia Pouzyreff (En Marche, Yvelines), and Mr Charles de La Verpilliere (Les Républicains, Ain. The other members are Messrs Alexis Corbiere (La France insoumise, Seine-Saint-Denis), Jean-Pierre Cubertafon (Mouvement démocrate, Dordogne), Jean-Jacques Ferrara (Les Républicains, Corse), Jean-Christophe Lagarde (Union de démocrats et indépendants, Seine-Saint-Denis), Jean-Charles Larsonneur (En Marche, Finistere), Stephane Trompille (En Marche, Ain).

The British Committee has set up an informal sub-Committee, consisting of the Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP (Conservative, New Forest East), the Rt Hon John Spellar MP (Labour, Warley), the Rt Hon. Mark Francois MP (Conservative, Rayleigh and Wickford), Martin Docherty-Hughes MP (West Dunbartonshire, SNP) and Mrs Madeleine Moon (Labour, Bridgend).

In practice, the inquiry will take the form of joint evidence sessions in Paris and London, and the drafting of a joint report, to be agreed by the two Committees on the same day, in the autumn.

The focus of the inquiry will be the implications of the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) programme, which moved into a new phase with the signature on 28 March last year of an agreement covering a study led by the MBDA of future missile technologies, which provides for an MBDA ‘joint concept phase’. The phase will be financed equally, with France and the UK each contributing 50 million euros, and is expected to last up to three years.

The aim of the FC/ASW programme is to secure conventional strategic strike capability, both anti-ship and air-land, hitherto covered by Exocet and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, as well as by the two countries’ SCALP/Storm Shadow missiles. From 2030 these programmes should significantly improve first entry capabilities for naval and airborne platforms and, in particular, provide a capability for neutralising enemy long-distance surface-air defence systems, whether sea- or land-based.

The joint inquiry’s terms of reference include:

  • the two Navies’ requirements for the next generation of anti-ship missiles, including range, speed, stealth and terminal guidance;
  • the capability of the UK and French defence industries to meet these requirements, whether separately or jointly; and
  • the availability of suitable missiles from other suppliers.

More broadly, the inquiry will be an opportunity to deepen, and further develop, Franco-British parliamentarians’ vision for bilateral defence cooperation.

We welcome this first inquiry and hope that it will lead to further and closer joint working in the future.

[Draft preparation by Dr Adam Evans, Senior Clerk, Defence Committee, is acknowledged with thanks – JL]