International

U.K., France sign historic nuclear deal

Setting aside their historic rivalry, Britain and France on Tuesday signed an unprecedented 50-year nuclear deal that would see them share nuclear facilities and jointly develop technology, marking what British Prime Minister David Cameron described as a “new chapter” in the now-on-now-off Anglo-French relations.

They also agreed to create a joint rapid reaction force of up to 5,000 troops deployable at short notice and to cooperate in a range of other defence-related areas.

The agreement, propelled by the need to save money on defence in the difficult economic situation, was seen as a blow to Eurosceptics in Mr. Cameron's Conservative Party and a “triumph” for his pro-European Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

Speaking after signing the deal with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr. Cameron said: “Today we open a new chapter in a long history of co-operation on defence and security between Britain and France.”

However, he assured his Europhobic party colleagues that the agreement would not impinge on Britain's national sovereignty.

“Britain and France are, and will always remain, sovereign nations, able to deploy our armed forces independently and in our national interest when we choose to do so…..It is about defending our national interest. It is about practical, hard-headed co-operation between two sovereign countries,” he said.

Mr. Sarkozy described the agreement as “historic” and “unprecedented” and, like his host, insisted that it would not undermine either country's sovereignty. “France and Britain's clocks strike at the same hour at the same time,” he said, adding that the two countries intended “to work hand in glove”.

Both leaders felt the need to defend the deal, which consists of two wide-ranging treaties, arguing that it was aimed at making the citizens of the two countries safer and save money.

Mr. Cameron said while one treaty would commit the two neighbours to work “more closely than ever before” the other would lead to increased co-operation on “nuclear safety”. Two research centres — one each in Britain and France — would be set up to develop nuclear testing technology.

Labour's shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy welcomed the deal saying it would take forward the “good work of the last [Labour] government”.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 9:35:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/U.K.-France-sign-historic-nuclear-deal/article15673434.ece

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