Since the Lancaster House Treaties in 2010, the Franco-British Council has regularly organised a Defence Conference. Funded by the French and British Defence ministries and by partners in the defence sector, this annual conference brings together representatives from the most senior level of military, government, industry and academia from both sides of the Channel.
Its objectives are to forge new relationships and reinforce mutual understanding between the two countries' defence communities. Themes discussed enthusiastically at the last conference included: bilateral security cooperation after Brexit, the prospects of a shared defence culture in respect of Europe and NATO, the setting up of mutual dependency in industrial domains of sovereignty and the added value of the Franco-British partnership in the fight against terrorism. In almost a decade, the conference has established itself as a reference for the bilateral relations in the defence sector.
On September 19th-20th 2018, the Franco-British Council organised its 7th Defence conference at the Residence of the French Ambassador in London. Leading guests were invited to speak on the state and direction of the Franco-British Defence relationships.
The event was supported by the UK and French Ministries of Defence and was funded by the UK Ministry of Defence together with generous commercial sponsorship from MBDA. It enabled engaged participation and discussions about deepening our Franco-British defence ties. We are very grateful to our partners for their support, honoured to have hosted our speakers and we thank all our guests for making our 7th edition a success. The report from the conference will be available in the coming weeks.
Outline of the 2018 conference's programme:
Wednesday September 19th
- Welcome addresses by Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Ambassadeur de France au Royaume-Uni and Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP.
- Speeches by the British and French Chiefs of Defence Staff: General Sir Nicholas Carter and Chef d’Etats-Major des Armées Génėral d’Armée François Lecointre. Theme: A new relationship between Defence and Security seven years on from the Lancaster House Treaty.
- An historical perspective to mark the Centenary of the Armistice by Colonel Armel Dirou, French Military Attaché, London.
Thursday September 20th
- British and French Defence Ministers: Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson and Ministre des Armées Florence Parly. Theme: Ministerial View of the Bilateral Relationship.
- Sir Simon Bollom, Chief Executive, Defence Equipment & Support and Joël Barre, Délégué Général pour l’Armement. Theme: The place of the Franco-British relationship in Capability Development and Acquisition.
- Antoine Bouvier, CEO of MBDA on the Industrial perspective.
And an opportunity for participants to engage in Round-Table discussions on strategic issues including:
- The legal Context - Issues of common legal concern for France and the UK.
- What does Industry’s experience bring to the bilateral relationship and how can the interaction be managed more effectively? What deductions for bilateral cooperation can be drawn from the latest national Reviews?
- How can the UK and France’s best work together to address the challenges posed by the new strategic environment?
- Readiness for Intervention. How can France and the UK coordinate more closely to prepare for and to respond to crises?
Quotes from our Partners
“The Franco-British Council Defence Conference plays a key part in the security and defence relationship between our two countries. It provides a unique discussion space for prominent figures from government, Parliament, those in the defence industry, researchers and academics who are eager to take our bilateral cooperation forward for the maximum benefit of our two countries’ and Europe’s security.” HE Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Ambassadeur de France au Royaume-Uni.
Interview with Antoine Bouvier, CEO of MBDA.
As our sponsor this year, we have asked Antoine Bouvier to share his views on their sponsorship, our Defence Conference, the bilateral relationships from a commercial perspective, and the key issues for the defence industry. Here are his responses in full. A good opportunity for us to thank MBDA and all our partners for generously supporting our 2018 Defence Conference.
FBC: Why are you sponsoring the Franco-British Defence Conference this year?
AB: The longstanding relationship between France and the UK in defence terms was one of the major factors leading to the creation of Matra Bae Dynamics in 1996 and MBDA in 2001. As separate national entities, it was clear then as it is now, that the critical mass required to design, develop and produce the most advanced defence capabilities required by the armed forces of the two countries could never be obtained working independently. Industrial cooperation, reflecting the operational cooperation between the two countries, is therefore crucial.
MBDA is delighted to support events like the Franco-British Defence Conference because, and I am proud to claim this, we are rightly seen not only as a European defence industry leader but also as the champion of European industrial cooperation and sovereignty, especially with regard to France and the UK. As a company, MBDA is very proud to be considered the partner of choice by France and the UK, the two major players in European defence, both in budgetary and capability terms.
FBC: How strong is the Franco British relationship from a commercial perspective?
AB: Much of what we have achieved as a company in developing and producing world-leading capabilities like the Storm Shadow / SCALP cruise missile would have been totally impossible if a very strong Franco-British cooperation had not been in place. Cooperation makes commercial as well as operational sense between two closely linked countries. The international programme that led to the Meteor long range air-to-air missile has been a great success and a further encouragement for France and the UK to recognize the advantages of continued industrial cooperation. This enthusiasm is evidenced by two other projects: the helicopter-launched Sea Venom / ANL anti-ship missile which is already in its latter stages of development as well as the Future Cruise / Anti-Ship Weapon (FC /ASW) which is still in its early conceptual phase.
MBDA has also adapted itself industrially by establishing Franco-British industrial centres of excellence aimed at reducing industrial duplication and thereby improving competitiveness and efficiency for the benefit of our customers.
FBC: What is the key-issue for the defence Industry this autumn?
AB: In general terms, the issue remains the need to offer our customers the capabilities they require at an affordable cost, on time and on quality. More specifically, with Brexit on the very near horizon, we have to prepare for all the potential outcomes to ensure that all the good that has come to date from Franco-British industrial cooperation under the Lancaster House treaty, and more generally between the UK and its European partners, is not compromised. Finally, it is essential that the very fruitful cooperation between France and the UK in the complex weapons domain, a cooperation which is of utmost importance with regard to shared operational capabilities, continues to be pursued. This will allow for the launch of the common strategic FC/ASW programme at the beginning of the next decade aimed at replacing the currently in-service Storm Shadow / SCALP, Exocet and Harpoon missiles.
FBC: What are you looking forward to seeing from the event?
AB: MBDA is looking forward to seeing a joint commitment backed by a shared enthusiasm amongst the conference participants to continue down the path we have already taken. Cooperation has taken us a long way already, but it can and will take us a lot further. Together, France and the UK can provide the catalyst for wider European cooperation, to ensure that the necessary equipment is made available to its armed forces as they meet the uncertain defence and security challenges that lie ahead.