One hundred years ago, in April of this year, Great Britain signed the Cordial Agreement with France. Some observers expressed reservations at the time in what was now denounced as the far-right press of Little England, but such protests were astounded by a wave of enthusiasm for such a staggering diplomatic revolution. The agreement was hailed as a triumph of reason, progress and diplomatic agility. Britain had finally put an end to its ancestral hostility with France, abandoned imperial adventurism and stemmed from its chauvinistic isolationism, which it had imposed itself. Instead, it should adopt a more common spirit of diplomacy with our neighbours across the Channel. In fact, the Agreement proved disastrous for both Britain and for peace in Europe. The Agreement was largely the inspiration of a Francophile social and political elite and was based on a misapprehension of the contemporary strategic position. Philip Pedley sees fatal mistakes in a famous deal. A series of agreements between England and France, known as the Cordial Agreement, was signed on 14 April 1904. Following lengthy discussions between the two former rivals, the agreements officially marked the end of hostilities that erupted temporarily across the Channel, elucidating more immediate issues of imperial expansion and (re) distributed power in contested places, including Egypt, Morocco, Senegal and Nigeria. Historians have tended to focus on the imperial conflicts that led to the signing of the agreements, including in Egypt and Africa, as well as the legacy of the Agreement in the 20th century. The manner in which the 1904 agreements were used to formalize the more informal cordial agreement (French for “hot agreement”), which existed between England and France in the 19th century and which paved the way for the British and French to ally themselves against German aggression during the First World War.
The German government, seeking this agreement, decided to test its borders by sending Emperor William II to Morocco in March 1905 to explain his support for the sultan, an obvious challenge for France`s influence in this country sanctioned by the Cordial Agreement. This attempt to undermine the Anglo-French alliance failed, with Britain sided with France; An international conference convened the following year in Algeciras, Spain, also recognized France`s claims in the region. When the Russo-Japanese War was dematob, France and Britain were about to be drawn into the conflict on the side of their respective allies. France was firmly allied with Russia, while the United Kingdom recently signed the Anglo-Japanese alliance. To avoid war, “the two powers ended their old rivalry” and resolved their differences in Africa, America, Asia and the Pacific. To this end, the French Foreign Minister, Theophile Delcassé, and Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Minister, reached an agreement on colonial affairs, and Lord Lansdowne and Paul Cambon, French Ambassador to the United Kingdom, signed the agreement that resulted on 8 April 1904 Mr. Balfour and others requested a protectionist weapon to remove the commercial exclusivity of other powers. And all the time, they had the best of all weapons ready in their own hands in the rigid respect of free trade policy.
Our free trade does not give us the right to impose on other powers how their trade policy should be within their own borders. However, it gives us an absolutely unavoidable right to demand that, in all neutral and undauthorized markets where we have the most favoured rights, they be respected, regardless of their political destiny. The inexorable logic of this position can only be weakened in two ways. It can be weakened if we dispersonate our energies and instead of limiting ourselves to one crucial point – the maintenance of our existing trade rights – we will succumb to the doctrine that “trade follows the flag” and accept annexations on their own and set an example for other nations that can only harm us.