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France: Duck with De Gaulle

2 minute read

For the first time since Charles de Gaulle brusquely vetoed British membership in the Common Market two years ago, the master of the Elysée Palace and the occupant of No. 10 Downing Street sat down last weekend in Paris for two days of official talks. Things went surprisingly well, though a mismatch of menus laid canard Rouen on Guest Harold Wilson’s plate for both lunch and dinner one day, first at the Elysée and then at the Quai d’Orsay. Unruffled, Wilson declared the conversations “outspoken, robust and constructive,” and a smiling De Gaulle let it be known on his part that he had been considerably impressed with Wilson’s intellect.

Wilson was outspoken about Britain’s determination to defend the pound, and bluntly said that anybody who thought his upcoming budget message would announce devaluation was a “nut case.” Inevitably there was robust disagreement on Viet Nam. Wilson, despite thunder on his left in Parliament for instant negotiations, is adamant about supporting Washington’s Southeast Asian policy, while De Gaulle wants negotiations as soon as possible. As a result, explained Wilson afterwards, “we did not waste a lot of time arguing about it.” The Common Market got even shorter shrift, since Wilson and the Labor Party want no part of British membership in the Six as things now stand.

By far the most constructive result of the two leaders’ talks was accord on increased cooperation in advanced aircraft and electronics technology. The French and British are already committed to joint production of the Concorde supersonic airliner. The new understanding may well lead to joint work on military aircraft as well, such as a variable-wing attack jet similar to the U.S.’s F-111.

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