British papers eye 'froggies' defence deal with horror

2nd November 2010, Comments 0 comments

British newspapers reacted with horror Tuesday to the country's new defence deal with historic rival France, evoking famous battles from 1066 onwards to question whether "the froggies" should be trusted.

From the Battle of Hastings in 1066 -- a key victory on English soil which ushered in the first Norman king of England -- to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when British forces helped defeat Napoleon, Fleet Street plundered the history books to caution against the deal.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday sign a deal for extensive cooperation which will include the creation of a joint rapid reaction force and a shared nuclear testing facility.

But many of Britain's more eurosceptic newspapers questioned whether France will prove a reliable partner.

"Seldom do important defence stories present opportunities for belly laughs," said the editorial in the middle-market Daily Express.

"But the news that Britain and France are to pool their armed forces does. Oh, where to begin? In 1066 perhaps; all those endless wars against the froggies that went on for hundreds of years; St Joan; the Battle of Agincourt when we showed them what's what; Napoleon getting his comeuppance; D-Day?"

In the Daily Mail, a former British Army officer, Tim Collins, recalled the history of animosity felt by British soldiers for the French.

"Horatio Nelson famously instructed his officers that 'you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.'"Collins wrote.

"Well it seems now we are to be one with them -- at least militarily. I must admit I am sceptical."

But The Times's Ben Macintyre highlighted that, as well as suspicion, Britain and France also had a "parallel tradition of mutual admiration".

This has increased in recent years as more and more French and Britons have visited and lived in each others' countries due to improved transport links and European Union ties.

And Philip Stephens in the Financial Times described the deal as a "cordial entente to match the realities of power".

"France can no longer hope to organise Europe against America. Britain cannot substitute a close bond with the US for collaboration on its own continent," he wrote.

"The pity is that it has taken the reality of decline to persuade them of the obvious."

© 2010 AFP

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