The Ministry of Defence conducts a range of operations, domestically and overseas, both independently and jointly with allies, including with the United States. We keep our operations and our broader military posture under continuous active review.
Now, following the debacle in Afghanistan, we know that we cannot rely on America, will the Secretary of State make his commitment clear to our closest and traditional ally, France, which is vital for our interests, particularly in regard to migration and many other issues? Will he commit himself to working with the French to improve relations and perhaps involve them in this new relationship in the Pacific?
I listened to my right hon. Friend’s points. First of all, the United States and France are our closest allies. The United States is the cornerstone of NATO and by far outspends and out-contributes any other European nation. It has been the guarantor of European security for decades and we should not forget that. When it comes to France, I have an extremely close relationship with my French counterpart. I met her only a month or two ago and I had a dinner with her in Paris a month before that. We speak regularly. Britain and France are joined at the hip on many issues, including on complex weapons; counter-terrorism; Africa, both west and east; and indeed Iraq and Syria. There is absolutely no intent here by the United Kingdom Government to slight, upset or drive a wedge between us and France. Members may like listening to the media, but, fundamentally, we have more in common than we have things on which we differ. There was no sneakiness involved, and we did not work behind France’s back. Fundamentally, it was Australia’s right to choose a different capability and it did.