Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne told the Question Time audience in London this week “soldiers won’t be required to speak French or wear onions round their necks or stripy t-shirts or ride bicycles” during the debate on the new joint France-UK military agreement.
He was questioned by an audience member of whether anything “will be British anymore.” Then was branded a “racist” by a heckler.
A spokesperson said “Mr. Browne was speaking during a wider and lively discussion” continuing “his comments should be seen in this context”. Following, he was just “allying concerns” and was “not meaning to cause offence.”
The French Embassy has “no comment” on the matter, despite the stereotypical descriptions.
Lise Morel, who teaches French in the UK, was “gobsmacked” by the “clichés of the French”. She believes that it is “extremely offensive in that context in particular.”
Mathieu Cagna, also a French national, said it was “not bad”, putting it down to the British humour.
Dr. Lynn Bennie, a senior lecturer in Politics at the University of Aberdeen thinks “it is inappropriate language if anything else” continuing, “when politicians make these kinds of statements it does not do their reputations any good.”
This is an embarrassment to the Government is stressing the strong relationship with France at the moment. Prime Minister David Cameron was seen shaking hands with Nicolas Sarkozy over the deal. Nick Clegg the Deputy Prime Minister was seen speaking French at the talks.
The “Declaration on Defence Security Cooperation”, as it is known, is proposing shared military capabilities in an effort for both countries to save money. It will call for the sharing of aircraft carriers and British troops under French command. There will also be a sharing of nuclear test facilities.
Both countries are under increasing pressure to find savings and this is one solution. It is being hailed as a “new chapter” in defence. It is a controversial partnership due to the past disagreements over conflicts as recent as the war in Iraq.
Browne followed with a comment “not to believe everything you read in the papers.”