What Unites France and the United Kingdom Is More Important than What Separates
What Unites France and the
United Kingdom Is More Important than What Separates Them
Speech by Jean-Louis Debré,
President of the Assemblée Nationale.
Sénat. Paris, April 6, 2004.
In this centenary year of the declaration of the Entente Cordiale signed by King
Edward VII and the then Président du Conseil, Théophile Delcassé, on the 8th of
April 1904, may I too say, on behalf of the French Members of Parliament, what
an honour it is for us to welcome you. This, your fourth State visit to our
country, bears witness once again to your attachment to France and to the
friendship that has united France and the United Kingdom for so long.
This great friendship is the fruit of a long history of rivalries, wars and
alliances which, over the centuries, has woven complex and very close ties
between our peoples who are so close and yet so different. May I venture to say
that the rivalry between our two nations, these two embodiments of two very
distinctive cultures and temperaments, has helped nourish their respective
geniuses and contributed to their influence? In all events, this long and
singular history, during which victory for one of our nations sometimes meant
defeat for the other, has taught us to get to know and appreciate one another,
as two nations with strong identities can know and appreciate one another.
Sir Winston Churchill, which whom General de Gaulle shared a friendship that may
not always have plain sailing but that was founded on mutual admiration,
contended that "The Almighty, in his infinite wisdom, did not see fit to create
the French in the image of the English." They nonetheless shared the same
deep-rooted attachment to two essential values: freedom and human dignity. When
the ordeals of history jeopardised these values, the British and French always
set the differences aside to stand united against these threats.
This same fraternity of arms, forged on the battlefields of the Great War which
saw so many British, French and allied forces pay the price of our freedom with
their blood, was again in evidence in World War II. We all remember the
admirable tenacity of the British people under the glorious leadership of Sir
Winston Churchill and under the aegis of his sovereign, your father King George
VI. We all know how much the resistance, the example and the support of England,
as well as the encouragement of the King and Royal Family helped Général de
Gaulle keep proudly flying the flag of la France libre and the French resistance
In these terrible circumstances, France and Great Britain demonstrated what they
can achieve when they stand united. In a few weeks' time, the 60th anniversary
of the Normandy landings will be an opportunity for us to celebrate, along with
our allies, this fraternity that was renewed on the beaches of Normandy.
Sixty years after those great feats, the Europe that we succeeded in defending
and liberating with weapons, has, after its reconciliation, embarked on a
peaceful adventure, that of its construction. Great Britain and France both hope
that this construction will take place with all due respect to Nation-States,
while transcending self-interest but without renouncing national specificities.
There can be no doubt that the Franco-British friendship will be called upon to
serve as one of the pivots of this reconciled, pacified and united Europe. Since
the United Kingdom joined the Common Market some three decades ago, remarkable
progress has been made in bringing our peoples and countries closer together in
areas of development and cooperation, as borne out by our joint intervention in
Africa or in the field of defence. After so many other projects carried out
together, can there be any better symbol of our ability to cooperate with one
another than the Channel Tunnel, via which Your Majesty arrived in France
A few years ago, I believe, Your Majesty humorously remarked that "Though it is
true that we do not drive on the same side of the road, it is equally true that
we are advancing in the same direction."
Based on the conviction that what unites them is more important than what
separates them, France and the United Kingdom wish to look to the future
That is the wish that the French members of parliament would like to express on
this anniversary date, together with their counterparts from the House of
Commons who have kindly travelled to Paris on this joyous occasion and whom I
have the great pleasure of greeting at this reception.
Vive le Royaume-Uni !
Vive la France !
And long live the friendship between France and Britain!