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PM: Defence treaty is 'new chapter'

David Cameron has hailed a "new chapter" in Anglo-French relations after signing ground-breaking treaties which will see the two countries pool troops, aircraft carriers and nuclear testing facilities.

At the UK-France summit in London, the Prime Minister described the agreement as "big, bold and radical" while President Nicolas Sarkozy said that it demonstrated an unequalled measure of trust between two sovereign nations.

However the deal was greeted with suspicion by some senior Tories who warned that Britain and France had divergent strategic interests and questioned whether the French could be trusted to come to the UK's aid in a crisis.

The agreement will see the creation of an integrated carrier force with the two countries co-ordinating the refit programmes of their single remaining carriers to ensure that from the 2020s onwards at least one ship will always be available for joint operations.

British and French troops will train together in a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force capable of deploying round the world and the two countries will develop a new joint facility for testing their nuclear warheads, without the need for test firings which are banned under international treaty.

The agreement also opens the way to greater co-operation on programmes to develop new missiles, submarine technologies, satellite communications and unmanned aerial drones.

The two countries will also pool their resources to cut the cost of operating the new A400M transport aircraft, which they are both acquiring, while RAF air tankers may be available for the in-flight re-fuelling for French fighter jets.

Mr Cameron said that the agreement would enable both countries to enhance their defence capabilities at a time when they were seeking to reduce costs.

He denied that it represented a diminishing of national sovereignty, stressing that both countries would retain the right to decide independently when to deploy their forces on military operations.

"This is not about a European army. This is not about sharing our nuclear deterrents," he said.

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