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There's plenty of bonhomie as French president flies in for summit at RAF Brize Norton
THE world’s media descended on Carterton yesterday as Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed French President Francois Hollande.
M. Hollande flew into misty RAF Brize Norton at about 9am for the defence summit.
The West Oxfordshire air station suddenly became the focus of the world’s attention as the two nations thrashed out a deal on unmanned drones and nuclear energy.
Gp Capt Steve Lushington, station commander at RAF Brize Norton, said the base had been planning for the day for about a month.
He said: “Hosting this summit makes us all feel very proud. We are lucky we have been chosen for such a significant conference.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, a significant amount of planning goes into making sure a day like today is a success.
“We are very proud of our working relationship with the French military and a great example of that is the co-operation of the RAF at Brize helping to load equipment and personnel into Mali and the Central African Republic.”
Station commander Gp Capt Steve Lushington
As M. Hollande’s plane landed, a brass band played the French national anthem as he was welcolmed by senior members of Mr Cameron’s staff and dignitaries from Carterton and Brize Norton.
The French president then met several servicemen who collaborated in his country’s intervention in Mali last year to help the African nation’s army retake part of its territory.
M. Hollande was also shown a French air force Airbus A400M Atlas transport aircraft - the type will also enter service with the RAF later this year - and an RAF Boeing C17 Globemaster.
One of the servicemen he met was Brize-based Sqn Ldr Andy McIntyre, of 99 Squadron, who was involved in the intervention in Mali.
Sqn Ldr Andy McIntyre
He said: “I spent three weeks on the ground for the start of the intervention as liaison between the UK and the French. I think it was a fantastic experience to work with another air force.
“The president came past, shook my hand and asked if I was involved in Mali. It was a very brief exchange.”
M. Hollande and Mr Cameron then took part in talks about energy and defence before signing a commitment to invest in the procurement of defence equipment.
Prime Minister David Cameron leads French President Francois Hollande into The Swan Inn at Swinbrook
They then went for lunch and a drink at The Swan Inn in Swinbrook, near Burford, where they each had trout and a half-pint of Hook Norton ale while discussing EU reform.
The Prime Minister and President met landlord Archie Orr-Ewing at the Swan Inn
Landlord Archie Orr-Ewing said: “It was fantastic that they came and it went really well. It was a very exciting moment for all of us.
“They asked me how business was and we had a light-hearted discussion about the flooding but they were very pressed for time and had much more important thing to talk about.”
The leaders make a dash to get on with the business of the day
Mr Cameron said: “I wanted to meet here at Brize Norton because, while it's not the most lavish of surroundings, I wanted to emphasise the concrete steps we’re taking to co-operate on defence.
“Our collaboration on nuclear is a concrete sign of the real progress we want to make to make in Anglo-French co-operation.”
During the press conference M. Hollande was asked about his affair with actress Julie Gayet, which resulted in him leaving his partner Valérie Trierweiler earlier this month, but he declined to answer the question.
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