Plans to merge France and Britain unveiled

15th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Jan 15, 2007 (AFP) - Former French prime minister Guy Mollet proposed merging France with Britain in the 1950s, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, the BBC reported Monday citing formerly secret documents.

LONDON, Jan 15, 2007 (AFP) - Former French prime minister Guy Mollet proposed merging France with Britain in the 1950s, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, the BBC reported Monday citing formerly secret documents.

The proposal for a "Franglaterre", as the BBC called it, comes from previously classified papers unearthed from Britain's National Archives when Mollet met his British counterpart Anthony Eden on September 10, 1956.

A British cabinet paper from the day read: "When the French Prime Minister, Monsieur Mollet, was recently in London, he raised with the prime minister the possibility of a union between the United Kingdom and France."

At the time, France was facing up to the escalating Suez crisis and threatened by separatists in French-run Algeria who were being funded by Egypt's president Gamel Abdel Nasser.

The BBC said Mollet -- an avowed Anglophile and admirer of the British welfare state -- was keen to fight back against Nasser on both fronts and determined to secure London's help to do so.

But with France an ally of Israel and Britain of Jordan, he also wanted to avoid French and British troops fighting each other as tensions mounted along the Israel-Jordan border.

Eden turned down Mollet's request for a union but the French prime minister had a plan B: while Eden was on a visit to Paris, Mollet asked for France to be allowed to join the British Commonwealth.

That would effectively have made Queen Elizabeth II the head of state in France, which became a republic in a bloody revolution against the ruling monarchy in 1789.

According to a document from September 28, 1956, the British prime minister reacted enthusiastically to the proposal when he discussed it with his cabinet secretary Sir Norman Brook.

"Sir Norman Brook asked to see me this morning and told me he had come up from the country consequent on a telephone conversation from the prime minister who is in Wiltshire (southwest England).

"The PM told him on the telephone that he thought in the light of his talks with the French:

"That we should give immediate consideration to France joining the
Commonwealth.

"That Monsieur Mollet had not thought there need be difficulty over  France accepting the headship of her Majesty (Queen Elizabeth II).

"That the French would welcome a common citizenship arrangement on the Irish basis."

But the proposal seems to have been quietly forgotten, the BBC added, saying it could find no record of the conversation in the French national archives.

The British documents were declassified two decades ago but had lain "virtually unnoticed since", said BBC radio presenter Mike Thompson, whose programme on the subject, "A Marriage Cordial", goes out Monday.

On the programme, Henri Soutou, a professor of contemporary history at Paris's Sorbonne University, is heard stammering with amazement when he is told of Mollet's plan.

"Really, I am stuttering because this idea is so preposterous," he said.

The idea of joining the Commonwealth and accepting the headship of Her Majesty would not have gone down well. If this had been suggested more recently, Mollet might have found himself in court."

French lawmaker Jacques Myard added: "I tell you the truth, when I read that I am quite astonished. I had a good opinion of Mr Mollet before. I think I am going to revise that opinion."

France signed the Treaty of Rome with Germany the following year, creating the European Economic Community.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news 

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