What is the Franco British Council?

Please look at their web-site here.


Here are some rather odd things about it, to pique your interest (my emphasis) . . .


  • It is set up as an "independent" "non-governmental" charitable organisation (but see its funding sources).
  • It promotes "constructive dialogue between France and the UK for enhanced future collaboration".
  • It was founded in 1972 on the joint initiative of President Georges Pompidou and Prime Minister Edward Heath "in a context of a developing Europe and of an increasingly globalised community".
  • It brings together "leading representatives of the worlds of culture, politics, defence, science, education and business".
  • It manages a Young Leaders programme whose candidates are "selected by a jury of high profile personalities in both countries" (the selection criteria are strangely unmentioned, even on the application page) as well as a similar Local Leaders programme.
  • It is also a "platform of influence for the Franco-British Defence community", and organises (since 2010) an annual Defence Conference (attendees by invitation only) which "brings together representatives from the most senior level of military, government, industry and academia from both sides of the Channel".


It is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales  as nbr 1042395 - FRANCO-BRITISH COUNCIL - BRITISH SECTION.

Notes from its Defence Conference in Nov 2016 (confusingly accessed by a link on their main page entitled "For the 2017 Defence Report", and also entitled "2017" at the top of page one but referenced by every subsequent page footer as "2016") concluded on page 4 that the Brexit vote should have no impact on the direction of travel ("Tout va bien"). Mysteriously no reports from subsequent meetings seem to be available, although at least one such is believed to have taken place in March 2018.


Helpfully UK Column had a report which gives us their take on what is going on - and I find it hard to disagree.


Actually it seems that there was a meeting on 19/20 September 2018 - proceedings still to be published now published!  According to Gen. Sir Nick Carter: "The European Intervention Initiative (EI2) and cooperation on humanitarian operations seem to be areas where the strength of the Franco-British military relationship will  continue to underpin international operations conducted either bilaterally or as part of a wider partnership."


So what "wider partnership" might that be? Perhaps by way of answer, Round Table 3 helpfully identified "The need to explore the case for a treaty to redefine the UK’s relationship with the EU.".



It is legitimate to ask why a charity is getting involved with Defence, which is above all a matter for the national governments. Are charities not required to be apolitical? In my view to decribe this charity as "non-governmental" and "independent" when it's defence conferences are hosted at embassies and government ministries are listed as major donors is to stretch the meaning of words close to breaking point.


According to the Charity Commission, for charitable purposes a political purpose includes "securing or opposing a change in the policy or decisions of central government or local authorities or other public bodies, whether in the UK or overseas".  It is hard to see how bilateral cooperation in matters of Defence can be regarded as apolitical, but maybe they are simply not seeking to change the established policy since 1972?


Also according to the Charity Commission, "to be a charity, an organisation must be independent of outside control in a way that would prevent it being subject to the control of the High Court" (I don't understand that either - if anyone can enlighten me please use our Contact page).


At this point we really want to know where the FBC gets its funding from. The FBC web-site lists funding sources (as at 21st January 2018 - see their web-site for latest funding sources): 


So there we have it - our Defence policy is being influenced by a charity set up when the UK joined the "Common Market", funded by British and French government agencies and a collection of businesses / businessmen with very large international interests. What protection do we have here against "crony capitalism"? I note the "generous commercial sponsorship" provided for the 2018 defence conference by defence contractor MBDA.


The "Leaders" programmes are vaguely defined but could be designed to select and indoctrinate malleable young people to promote unspecified values across the businesses and institutions of the future. One might hope that such an opaque programme should automatically disqualify the FBC from charitable status?


Nowhere does this influence include any democratic input and to retain its charitable status it is honour-bound not to attempt to secure a change in the current policies of government.


The further integration of British armed forces into the EU of M. Macron is progressing unimpeded by any Brexit referendum decision and apparently out of reach of any democratic oversight.


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