Simon Carr:

The Sketch: Two leaders, united by fiscal embarrassment and mutual mistrust

Share
Related Topics

They met outside one of our great aristocratic town houses, attended by our golden-breasted guardsmen. Later, amid the glittering gold leaf inside – and watched over by topless angels – the leaders signed the two treaties. (They're expensive, these signing ceremonies – we did two-for-one.)

"A shared history," David Cameron said. We were going into a 50-year nuclear partnership with France and our PM assured us it was on the basis of our shared history. Blimey you don't want to bring that up!

So, Nick Robinson did. If there was a crisis in the South Atlantic, he asked, would we be able to borrow the French aircraft carrier to sort it out? Nicolas Sarkozy rolled his shoulders, flashed different parts of his strangely feminine face at us and said: "It would take a hell of a crisis." That was probably true. "Do you imagine our British friends facing a crisis and France folds it arms and does nothing?" We didn't imagine that, any of us.

Though doing nothing would be an improvement on selling Exocets to the enemy, to be sure. M le Président looked round at us in the way we all admire and asked: "What idea do you have of France?" There's more than one answer to that, but it wasn't the time or place.

However, you could tell there was a submerged sense of unease in our new friend about "our shared history" as he described the next question on the British rebate as "slightly perfidious". Ah yes, in our shared history there it was: the ancestral insult.

Perfide Albion betrayed France out of its global inheritance; cunningly we won all the wars, treacherously we invented industrial production, perfidiously we held the line against the Nazis...

Whatever our passing leaders say, our national narratives chatter in the background saying the same sort of things over hundreds of years.

To cover over this inconvenience, Sarkozy span us a number of genial lines. "The fact is, Britain is France's closest neighbour." (It isn't). "Our values are the same." (They aren't); "When Britain succeeds, it is a success for Europe." (Pull the other one, chum.)

So, to the point. Would he stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain over the rebate? If he'd been wearing a monocle like his periwigged antecedents he would have opened his eye and let it fall. As it was he did the trick with his ear and the translation earpiece fell out. It lacked elegance but it made his point. "Five years is a long time. Can you trust the French for 50 years?" ITV asked the PM. The correct answer is a question: "To do what?"

Cameron may not be here in five years and neither of them will be in 50. Much of this entente frugale depends on the personal qualities of them both and no doubt on the new frugality.

What happens to our nuclear amours when it all passes?

twitter.com/simonsketch

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script after James Foley beheading

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape