1904 Agreement Between France And Britain

If Spain, when asked to accept the provisions of the previous article, considered that it should refuse, the agreement between France and Great Britain, as stated in today`s declaration, would nevertheless be applicable at the same time. The Fashoda crisis of 1898 arose from the intense rivalry for European engagement in the « Scramble for Africa » (1881-1914). European powers, including Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Portugal and Belgium, sought control of the territories and decoupled Africa from each other. While Germany pursued an incredibly aggressive colonialist programme and, under the leadership of William II, claimed control of much of South-West Africa and Leopold II in Belgium ruthlessly claimed and exploited the free state of Congo, Britain and France engaged in an intense rivalry that profoundly contradicted the spirit of the Agreement. They argued over the British occupation of Egypt, which began in 1882, and in 1898 they engaged in fierce competition for the flow of Nile sources, which would allow the victor to consolidate its stocks (France held territories extending along an east-west axis including Senegal, Mali, Niger and Chad; However, Britain controlled farms that overlooked a north-south axis and included present-day South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia in southern Africa, as well as present-day Kenya in East Africa.) To take control of the Nile in 1898, French settlers arrived in Fashoda, a strategic town in South Sudan, only to be welcomed by British gunboats. Tensions escalated and threatened the Agreement, and a war seemed imminent. In the end, the French, led by the French Foreign Minister, Théophile Delcassé, acknowledged the folly of cooperation with the British (whose unsurpassed maritime power exceeded the size of the French army) and acknowledged defeat. Mr. Balfour and others have called for a protectionist weapon to break 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. It would be even more dangerous if we built ourselves an empire based on a system of trade preferences. This government has been guilty of both of these errors.