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In an interview with FRANCE 24, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace condemned the killing of Chadian President Idriss Deby and said Britain would do everything it could to support its friends such as France, as well as countries in the Sahel that are facing instability and radicalisation. Wallace also touted Franco-British defence projects and underlined that such cooperation will be key for both countries in meeting challenges from Russia and China, as well as non-conventional threats.

Speaking to FRANCE 24’s Armen Georgian, the British defence secretary highlighted the achievements of joint Franco-British defence projects: ‘We’ve had loads of programmes over the last decade. Some have been great successes such as the Jaguar aeroplane where France and Britain were very close; or the Puma helicopters that we still use. We collaborate on the organisation of our forces. We collaborate on part of our nuclear project, which is incredibly important. The Combined Joint Expeditionary force (CJEF) is real and solid. Some projects didn’t come to fruition, but that had nothing to do with Britain leaving the EU.”

Asked about aerospace projects, Wallace insisted these would continue despite Brexit: “Most projects over the last 30 to 40 years have been driven by the customers. In European defence, there are very few spenders who buy large equipment programmes. France, Germany, Britain, Italy – they are the big four and those spenders will continue to drive aerospace projects, regardless of Britain’s membership of the EU.”

He also gave his take on fighting tomorrow’s wars. “We want our capability to be forward and ready. The Russians know that – that’s why they are often at a greater readiness and a greater forward presence than we are. I can have a lot of ships tied up, but that isn’t going to deter anyone. We need a force that’s ready and deployable; a force that’s capable of beating our adversaries; and a force that is ready to work with alliances.”

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Asked about Britain’s global role post-Brexit, Wallace said: “Ninety-nine percent of the time we’ll be in a NATO outfit or deployment, but on some we’re going to join the United States, on others we’re hopefully going to join France or Germany or someone else. In Africa, for example, it could be Britain on its own, or it could be Britain with an African partner, or it could be Britain, France and the United Nations. All of that is about giving me choices.”

Asked about security in the Sahel region, the minister said: “For Barkhane, we’re sending an extra helicopter to support the Chinooks, and we’re also in the UN deployment with over 300 British troops. This is an example of where Britain and France absolutely align. Africa is a key area for Europe. It’s key for our trade interests, for our security and it’s in our interests that there is stability and counter-radicalisation right across Africa, whether it’s East or West Africa.”

Wallace also reacted to the shock death of Chadian President Idriss Deby, saying: ‘We’re very worried and sad by the loss of the president of Chad, we totally condemn the use of force to try to get rid of a government that’s in place and we’ll do everything we can to support our friends such as France and also those countries [in Africa].” 

He concluded: “What we don’t do other there comes back to haunt us all over here. The lessons of the last 20 years have meant… realising that the best defence is sometimes being over there, being abroad, investing in the resilience of other countries and friends, because that’s the best way of keeping the troubles coming to our shores.”

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Produced by Isabelle Romero, Perrine Desplats, Céline Schmitt and Perrine Desplats



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