This week’s deal between the British and French over defence is the latest collaboration between the two countries. And it makes sense; I doubt we have any reason to go to war with France and hopefully it’ll save both countries money by cutting down on duplicated resources.
Of course, if we were to go to war with France, or Germany, or even the Netherlands, we’d be a bit screwed. Companies owned by the federal governments of those countries actually operate a number of key services in the UK.
Starting with transport, the German government owns Deutsche Bahn (DB), which is the state rail operator in Germany. But DB also owns Chiltern Railways in the UK, and has majority shares in Wrexham & Shropshire and London Overground. It also has the contract to operate the Tyne & Wear Metro in the north east.
Furthermore, DB took over Arriva earlier this year, who are one of the UK’s biggest bus operators, as well as the operators of Arriva Trains Wales and CrossCountry. Arriva also has shares in Centrebus Holdings, another bus company.
The French government owns Transdev, which in turn owns a number of bus companies across the country (in Yorkshire alone it operates buses in Keighley, York, Harrogate and the long-distance Coastliner buses). It’s also partly responsible for the trams in Nottingham, and was to operate the new tram system in Edinburgh, although the Edinburgh project has been brought back in-house by the local authority.
SNCF is the French state railway company, which has a majority stake in the Keolis group. In turn, Keolis is part of the Govia consortium with the Go-Ahead group, and operates the Southern, Southeastern and London Midland rail franchises. Keolis also has a 45% stake in the First Transpennine Express franchise with FirstGroup taking the remainder.
And the Dutch government owns the state railway company Nederlandse Spoorwegen, whose Abellio subsidiary operates buses in London and Surrey, and is in a joint venture with British conglomerate Serco to operate the Merseyrail and Northern Rail franchises.
Then we have mobile phones. Historically, the French government owned Orange (part of France Telecom) and the German government owned T-Mobile (part of Deutsche Telekom). Since the two merged, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom each own 50% of a holding company called Everything Everywhere, with Orange and T-Mobile as subsidiaries (this is how I understand it).
And Deutsche Post, the German state post office, owns DHL, the international courier delivery company.
In other words, if we went to war with the rest of Europe, we’d have very few trains and loads of non-functioning mobile phones.