The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1996Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech in Bordeaux – 8 November 1996

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech given in Bordeaux on Friday 8th November 1996.


Mr President, Prime Minister. Let me firstly thank you for your hospitality today and for the splendid meetings we were also able to have yesterday afternoon.

What I think is beyond doubt is the extent to which the Anglo-French relationship has not only improved but has entered into new spheres and has become much more substantial at present than at any stage in the past that I can remember. It is not only a political relationship, it is a military relationship and an industrial and commercial relationship. I had the pleasure yesterday of going to Toulouse and there I saw the remarkable collaborative venture – Airbus – which has just had a splendid success in achieving such a magnificent order from the United States. It is I think the most sparkling example yet of European collaboration on important projects and it is moving rapidly to becoming the most significant aircraft production company in the world.

But this is by no means the only area of joint interest. Joint interests in defence where we have not only worked together so closely in Bosnia, but had many other joint interests: a joint Anglo/French Air Group, established when we met some time ago; a joint Naval Agreement, signed by our Defence Ministers this morning; and agreements planned on further cooperation between our armies that I hope we will be able to sign on our next occasion.

This is by no means an exclusive list but it is an indication of the huge range of cooperation at present between our two countries and their industries and their national institutions.

This morning we met, Mr President, to cover a whole range of bilateral and international matters. We met here in Bordeaux in a room that had been destroyed by terrorist action not very long ago. I think it is right we should have met in that room, right to emphasise our joint determination not to be blown off course by any terrorist action, whatever it may be for, wherever it may come, however severe it may be. I hope the place of our meeting this morning will be a powerful symbol of our joint determination to stand against terrorism.

There are other areas of great importance where we have work in progress and where we are equally determined. The fight against drugs is a particular illustration. Again I saw yesterday an illustration of the French and the British working together against the drugs menace that afflicts and threatens both our communities. These are areas where we share instincts and where we share a determination to work together, convinced that together we can better face the menaces that confront us.

We discussed many international matters, as you said Mr President, upon most of which we have a very similar view. What was evident in the discussions we had was that there are a very great range of areas upon which we agree, a rather smaller list of areas upon which we do not yet agree, but that even in those areas we are able to have a worthwhile and constructive debate to see what areas of agreement can be reached and to understand the reasons why, from time to time, agreement is not perhaps total.

I thought our meeting this morning illustrated the excellent nature of Anglo-French relationships very well. And it was startling also to see the extent of agreement between our Ministers upon their individual subjects. I believe we can say, with total sincerity, that the Anglo-French relationship is in good heart. I for one welcome that very much. We share interests on the Security Council, in the European Union, in NATO, in many other international bodies and in being the two Western European nuclear powers. I daresay there will never be a moment when upon every single issue there is unanimity between my country and yours, but the areas of disagreement are dwarfed by the areas of agreement. That has been illustrated yet again in a very clear way in the discussions we have had today.

There is one area upon which we are in total agreement, and that is the sheer pleasure and joy of sitting down to a French meal with French wines, and I am conscious that only I am standing between you and that French meal and the French wine.

So I will repeat my thanks for the warmth of your hospitality, for the Prime Minister’s hospitality and for that of the people of Bordeaux. I am deeply grateful for the way we have been received and thank you very much indeed.