Jack Straw: The state of the Entente Cordiale

From a speech by the Foreign Secretary on Franco-British relations, delivered in Paris

We shall mark the centenary of the Entente Cordiale with a state visit by HM the Queen to France in April, and a return visit by the President of the Republic to Britain in the autumn. But the celebrations are not just about big official occasions. We also want them to be the chance for people to get to know each other better.

Ties between people across the channel are already very strong. A quarter of a million French people live in the UK today. In the other direction, at least 100,000 Britons have homes in France, the largest settlement since the Hundred Years War, bringing cricket and cream teas to the Dordogne and Normandy.

These are not only people retiring to enjoy France's climate and quality of life. We have farmers, carpenters, teachers - younger people from all walks of life settling and working in France without difficulty.

I don't believe the talk of cultural rivalry between France and les Anglo-Saxons. We enjoy the best of both cultures - look at the lasting success of the musical we call Les Miz in London.

The same is true in sport. French sportspeople such as Thierry Henry at Arsenal, or British ones such as the sailor Ellen MacArthur, have hundreds of thousands of fans on both sides of the channel.

English football and rugby would be less exciting than they are without the many French players in the top clubs - or their French managers.

Whatever field you take, our links are strong. But we still know less about each other than we like to think. In a recent poll conducted in France, 75 per cent of respondents said they didn't know the UK very well.

Comments