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David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy hail Anglo-French defence deal

By Kim Sengupta

David Cameron said yesterday that a new chapter has been opened in Britain's relationship with France after the signing of a wide-ranging defence agreement.

Questions remained, however, about just how faithful the new partners will be to each other.

A key part of the deal will involve the aircraft carrier of one country defending the national interest of the other. Nicolas Sarkozy, asked whether France's Charles De Gaulle vessel would speed off to the Falklands in the event of a confrontation with Argentina, said: “We are not identical and I know that there is the Channel between our two countries.”

He added: “If you, my British friends, have to face a major crisis, could you imagine France simply sitting there, its arms crossed, saying it's none of our business?”

According to critics that, precisely, is the fear. Bernard Jenkin, a former Conservative defence spokesman, was doubtful that help would be forthcoming in a future tussle over the Falklands.

“There is a long track-record of duplicity on the French part. When it comes to dealing with allies, we should never be under any illusion. The French act in what they see as their strategic interests,” he said.

Mr Cameron acknowledged that political agreement would be needed for joint military operations, but stressed that this had already taken place in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Mr Sarkozy thanked the Prime Minister for upgrading the one operational carrier Britain will have, the HMS Prince of Wales. The additional work will allow French Rafale jets to fly from the UK carrier.

It was revealed in September that the summit would agree to co-operation on the nuclear deterrent, and yesterday's declaration signed by the two countries said: “We plan to develop jointly some of the equipment and technologies for the next generation of nuclear submarines.”

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