The main area of interest between England and France is the Channel. Some people compare this area to the Black Sea, but I tend to disagree with this. The difference is that the Black Sea I consider more crucial than the Channel, and there are more supply centers bordering the Channel. In this article I will describe the opening (1901) situation of the Channel but also what to do with the Channel longer term in case of either a French-British alliance, or a conflict.
As England, letting France on the Channel in Spring 1901 is a lethal option. A French fleet can threaten London, IRI, NTH and most importantly: it has the option to convoy an army to your precious island. So my conclusion is that any sane English player will not want the French in the Channel in 1901.
You can either achieve this by a bounce or a DMZ. Although a bounce is more secure, the downside is that your fleet is stuck in London, and can make no move for a supply center across the sea. So a DMZ is better, but riskier. If you know France is taking measures to take Burgundy, you are probably okay with a DMZ, as the French fleet will be send out to MAO to go after one of the Iberian supply centers.
As France, you prefer not to have an English fleet on the Channel early, but it is not as lethal as the other way around. A British fleet in the Channel after Spring 1901 will usually go for Belgium, or perhaps Brest. As long as you secure Brest this is a chance you can take. Anyways, with England tied up in the Channel securing Russian support against England in Scandinavia could become easier, and this is a strong alliance. I believe most French players should agree on a DMZ with England in the Channel, and move their fleet to MAO.
If you are interested in a frontal assault on England: Open F (Bre) – ENG; A (Par) – Pic. These two moves give you the option to attack Belgium with force or a convoy to London or Wales in the fall. For sure, a convoy to Wales gives you a very strong strategic position, but is does not generate a build option in 1901. I tend to believe France should minimally have two builds, mainly to not give Italy any ideas about an attack to the west. However, if you see Italy is tied up in a conflict early with Austria, it could show you as the underdog, and you have a good negotiating position with Germany. You will have to use minimum one build to get a new fleet in Brest, to get the British player further under pressure.
In case England and France start an alliance, the Channel is also important. There are two way for this alliance: one is that England and France go their own separate ways. In this method, France is involved in the Mediterranean and England in Scandinavia, whereas Kiel is somehow the middle point of the countries at some point. However, there is also the option that France builds armies, and England fleets. In this case, there comes a moment where England needs to give support in the Mediterranean, involving a move to MAO. Letting a foreign fleet into MAO is usually sensitive, as it is an open invitation to visit Portugal, Spain and Brest. A good way to counter this is to make a division in supply centers, where you both agree to give Brest to the English player already. This seems counterintuitive for France, but could actually work as a stabilizing factor in the alliance. It does mean that England will have to give up another supply center that has been conquered. This could be Kiel, Holland or some other example, such that the supply centers are in balance.
In the endgame, having allowed England to already conquer Brest earlier gives the French player more chance of a fair draw. Brest would be one of the first supply centers during a stab that England would grab, but if it is already part of his territory, he would have to go and find other supply centers instead.
In case of a conflict, both France and England will be fighting for domination over the Channel. I feel England is tough to play if France is coming with multiple fleets as a move MAO – NAO or IRI is always a risk which creates an enemy behind the front lines.