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Defence, euro zone centre stage for Franco-German alliance as Brexit looms

Defence, euro zone centre stage for Franco-German alliance as Brexit looms

By Jean-Baptiste Vey and Michel Rose

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Germany set out plans to make fighter jets together and tighten euro zone cooperation on Thursday as the European Union's two biggest economies look to life beyond Brexit.

Speaking after a joint meeting of their cabinet ministers in Paris, the first since this year's French presidential and parliamentary elections, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron also flagged their aim to harmonise taxes within the EU and develop a coherent digital strategy for the bloc.

"I believe that we have shown shortly after the new government here was installed that we are ready to activate Franco-German relations with a new impetus," Merkel told reporters at a joint news conference.

Most of what the pair announced went over old ground, but the plans to develop Europe's next generation of fighter planes together could shape the future of the European fighter industry and its three existing programmes - Eurofighter, France's Rafale and Sweden's Gripen.

It also comes as Britain's decision to leave the European Union changes the balance of interests for a country that is both a key defence industry player and a military power.

France and Germany said their new combat system, which analysts say could involve a mixture of manned and unmanned aircraft, would replace both the Rafale and the Eurofighter.

That marks the end of a decades-long split which saw France withdraw from the Eurofighter project in the 1980s to produce its own Rafale warplane under Dassault Aviation. The two aircraft compete fiercely for global sales.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/...

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