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DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

France and Britain strike deal to develop new missiles

France and Britian have signed a deal to jointly develop new cruise and anti-ship missiles, their defence procurement agencies and manufacturer MDBA said Friday, after months of cross-Channel defence tensions over a submarine deal with Australia.

French destroyer ship
Britain and France strike deal to develop new missiles. Photo: AFP / Joel SAGET

Paris and London “have confirmed the launch of the preparation works for
the Future Cruise / Anti-Ship Weapon,” European missile specialist MBDA said
in a statement.

Both Britain’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and France’s DGA
procurement agency confirmed the three-year contract, which MBDA said aimed to develop weapons “to be fielded at the end of the decade”.

MBDA’s new weapons, a subsonic stealth variant and a “highly manoeuvrable”
supersonic version, would replace existing missiles in use by the two countries’ navies and air forces.

The two countries had been at loggerheads on defence issues since last
year, when Britain and the US struck a deal to produce nuclear-powered
submarines for Australia as Canberra tore up an existing contract with France.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly had said in October that the missile
project was “in difficulties, given the state of our relations with the UK”.

But joint British-French missiles have been on the cards since the neighbours
signed the Lancaster House treaty in 2010, solidifying close defence ties.

Britain and France account for 60 percent of European defence spending and
80 percent of defence research and development outlays between them, far
outstripping Germany and keeping London a key military partner for Paris, even
after its departure from the European Union.

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FRANCE AND UK

France identified as possible source of half of Britain’s ancient genes

The largest ever analysis of ancient DNA suggests that people living in England and Wales are more genetically similar to ancient European farmers than the Britons of the Bronze Age.

Stone Henge - an ancient British monument.
A new study suggests that people living in the south of the UK share closer genetic similarities with the French than with people from the north of Britain. (Photo by Inja Pavlić on Unsplash)

A major migration into Britain from continental Europe, likely from France, about 3,000 years ago could explain a difference
in ancestry between the island’s northern and southern populations.

The findings published in Nature Wednesday come from the largest ever analysis of ancient DNA and may also help shed light on how Celtic languages spread into the British Isles.

According to previous research, people living across Britain some 4,500 years ago shared similar ancestry.

But today that has changed with southern residents showing more genetic similarities to an ancient population known as early European farmers.

To figure out why, Harvard geneticist David Reich and his team in the US sequenced ancient DNA samples from across England and much of continental Europe from a time spanning BC 1500 to 43 AD.

The resulting timeline shows in influx of migrants between 3,300 to 2,800 years ago whose genetic material most closely resembled ancient samples from France.

Reich told AFP one of the most exciting things about the study is the number and geographic diversity of ancient DNA covered.

With genomes from nearly 800 individuals, the study is the largest in ancient DNA ever carried out and lists over 220 authors.

The migration finding may also support a recent theory that Celtic languages came to Britain around the same time.

Reich said similarities between names of geographic features in southern England and France also seem to point to France as an origin for the spread.

Archaeologist Ian Armit of the University of York led the collection of samples, which consisted of bones from archaeological sites, museums and DNA labs across Britain and in Europe.

“The collection of data took many years and involved a huge number of people,” Armit told AFP.

He said recent revolutionary advances in ancient DNA analysis are a boon to the field of archaeology, allowing not only a better picture of vast population changes but shedding light on ancient family dynamics.

“We’re noticing family relationships in individual cemeteries so we can start to look at how kinship is reflected in buried populations,” he said.

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