Franco-British Defence Co-operation in the Context of Brexit

  • Samuel B. H. Faure


The politics of France’s defence co-operation, involving various allies within different politico-institutional frameworks at different scales of international public action (bilateral, minilateral, multilateral), is called ‘flexilateralism’. The ‘flexilateral’ politics of France in Europe questions the future of the strategic partnership with the United Kingdom (UK) in the context of the Brexit negotiations. This chapter demonstrates that Brexit could generate a two-fold effect on Franco-British defence cooperation based on an approach derived from the ‘practice turn’ in international relations theory. On the one hand, it is likely that Brexit would have only a limited effect on military policy because the Franco-British bilateral ‘practice’ is not in competition with other types of European co-operation. On the other hand, Brexit’s effect on industrial policy would be more marked from 2020 onwards in the event of a “hard Brexit”. The Franco-British partnership would be sidelined in favour of co-operation with Germany and associations with variable combinations of partners within the EU, which would necessarily become the determinant vehicles for formulating France’s flexilateral politics in Europe. As a result, the UK would retain a ‘leading role’ in military policy and would be simultaneously confined to a ‘supporting role’ in industrial policy. This variation can be explained by the structure of interdependence relations linking defence actors in Europe: a ‘closed configuration’ in military policy, an ‘open configuration’ in industrial policy.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel B. H. Faure
    • 1
  1. 1.Nuffield CollegeUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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