PARIS — British and French defense ministers will meet twice a year rather than just once, reflecting a deepening of bilateral relations despite Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.
“We have with the United Kingdom very close and deep relations in defense,” she told Defense News at a Sept. 6 event with AJPAE, an aeronautics and space journalists association. “That was formalized with the Lancaster House Treaty and will not be be called into question by the decision that the United Kingdom has taken to leave the European Union.
“In defense, there is a shared determination to pursue and deepen this relationship.”
The more frequent ministerial meetings reflected that intent. “This cooperation is precious and necessary for the security of the European continent,” she added.
Britain has put at French disposal the much-needed Chinook heavy transport helicopter in the Sahel theater, reflecting a close operational cooperation and shared experience in overseas deployment, she noted.
Britain has asked for what started as a technology demonstrator for a combat UAV to refocus toward a study of “technology areas,” she said. That left the door open for the technology to be applied for large programs, such as the Franco-German Future Combat Air System, she added.
“The story is not yet written,” she said. “Perhaps in the next few years the British could be by our side on the FCAS project. But maybe I am just dreaming. We’re not there yet.”
The January meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May, and their governments, also reflected close ties, particularly for the defense ministries, she said. That cross-channel summit closed without a pledge to build the demonstrator for a combat drone, disappointing French industry.
France is the lead nation on the FCAS project, which aims to field a future fighter jet flying in a system of systems, linking up drones, tankers, future cruise missiles and swarms of drones.
The departure of Britain from the EU, known as Brexit, is due to take place in March.