The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1995Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech at Inauguration of the Franco-British Air Group – 30 October 1995

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the inauguration of the Franco-British Air Group, held at High Wycombe on Monday 30th October 1995.


Mr President, Chiefs of Defence Staff, Ladies and Gentlemen. The President and I have just finished around about two and a half hours of discussions on a range of issues that affect our two countries right across the globe: Russia, the Middle East, Europe of course, a whole range of matters to do with defence. All of those are areas where there is a great degree of common interest between the British position and the position in France. What we begin to see emerging is the increasing move towards a global partnership between the interests of our two countries.

I will have more to say about that in another forum later this afternoon. But what I would like to do in the next few moments is concentrate just upon the defence aspects of our cooperation. And I do so because the more one examines them, the more striking it becomes how much Britain and France does together in terms of defence cooperation.

In the two military crises of recent years – the Gulf and Bosnia – Britain and France have worked together at the centre of co-operations. We cooperate equally closely in other areas of the defence relationship. We work together in the Western European Union. We cooperate closely in developing new forms of armament.

Both the President and I believe there is scope for developing this work further. And our Defence Ministers, who I am also delighted to see here at High Wycombe this morning, have been addressing that quite specifically in their discussions.

But the purpose of this ceremony is to inaugurate the Franco-British Air Group. The group was launched just a year ago at Chartres. This summer our Defence Secretaries agreed to establish precise roles, precise missions and working practices for the group. And today the President and I can launch what I believe will become an ambitious, an imaginative, undertaking.

We have high hopes of this group. We hope the Air Group will improve the inter-operability of our two Air Forces, improve them so that they are trained and ready to deploy together whenever, and wherever, that may be necessary.

Of course with this group at the moment it is early days. Much has been done, but there is a great deal more still to be done. The main focus thus far has been to develop contingency plans, to develop operating procedures, to develop a whole range of procedures on tasks such as humanitarian aid or peacekeeping.

But we see a much larger role for this group in the future. By enhancing the operational effectiveness and inter-operability of our air forces, we believe the air group will enable our two countries to work together more efficiently and to improve our joint contribution to European Defence. That, for both of us, is a matter of some considerable importance in the years ahead.

I am delighted that the President is with me here today for this particular occasion. And it occurred to me just a moment or so ago, as the President and I were just driving to the entrance of this building, that if our predecessors, Mr President, had hit upon this particular idea quite a few hundred years ago, I rather fancy the history of Europe might have been rather different, and many of us perhaps might have wished that it had been different.

So I think when one takes not just the beginnings that we are launching today, but the concept of what this may well become, one begins to see the scale and importance of the particular inauguration that we are privileged to be present at at the moment.

So we look today, as we inaugurate this group, to the future. And as I look to the future in inaugurating the group may I offer it, all its members, present and future, every success in fulfilling the important joint tasks that will continue to confront both of our great nations.

There is I believe, Mr President, and in this I believe I may safely speak for us both this morning, a determination to take every opportunity that exists to ensure that the interests of Britain and France march together, sail together and fly together, both for the security of Britain and France and the wider security of Europe.

I wish the Group every possible success.