France steps up war of words against UK

 

Relations between Britain and France were at their lowest ebb in years as London and Paris traded accusations over the state of the two countries' economies.

The tensions were inflamed when Nicolas Sarkozy's Finance Minister became the latest in a series of senior French figures to attack the British Government's handling of the economy.

François Baroin said yesterday: "The economic situation in Britain today is very worrying and you'd rather be French than British in economic terms. We don't want to be given any lessons and we don't give any."

David Cameron has not spoken to Mr Sarkozy since the French President described him as an "obstinate kid" after their public falling-out seven days ago. By contrast, Mr Cameron has discussed the eurozone's problems with several EU leaders – including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who telephoned Downing Street yesterday.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, told the French Prime Minister that the latest comments were "simply unacceptable" and urged him to "calm the rhetoric".

Earlier, Downing Street had responded to the French attack by pointing to the UK's ability to borrow money more cheaply on the international markets as a sign of confidence in British policy. Far from smoothing over their differences since those fraught negotiations, the acrimony between the two governments appears to have intensified. It dates back to last month when George Osborne suggested that France could be the next EU country to face a debt crisis.

Despite emerging isolated from last week's summit in Brussels, Britain is cautiously optimistic of building a new alliance with Germany in talks over the future of the single currency.

The French Finance Minister took his swipe at the British Government hours after being warned that his own country was about to slide back into recession. The French government is furious over suggestions that its credit rating should be downgraded from its cherished AAA status, blaming Mr Cameron's stance for undermining confidence in the EU's ability to get a grip on the crisis.

Downgrading would be a grievous blow to Mr Sarkozy, who is trailing in the polls ahead of an election in March and is pinning his hopes of a second term as President on being able to demonstrate that he is charting a clear course out of the crisis.

François Fillon, the French Prime Minister, and Christian Noyer, the Governor of the French central bank, have suggested that Britain is a more suitable candidate for being downgraded because it has a greater deficit and weak economic growth.

Mr Cameron's spokeswoman dismissed Mr Baroin's claims and pointed to the low bond yields – the rate at which a country can borrow over a long period – being offered to the UK Government. Britain is able to borrow money over 10 years at a rate of about 2 per cent, compared with a rate of about 3 per cent for France.

She said: "In terms of our economic plan, we are very clear: we have a plan endorsed by numerous international organisations and the bond yields underline the credibility of the plan."

The Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the influential Treasury Select Committee, said yesterday: "The plain fact is the UK is in a somewhat better position." He warned that "trying to distract attention to other countries' problems is not going to help anyone" and said he was "a bit surprised and disappointed" that Mr Noyer had joined the French attacks on Britain.

Mr Fillon broke off from a visit to Brazil to ring the Deputy Prime Minister, whom he has met several times, in an attempt to lower the diplomatic temperature. A spokesman for Mr Clegg said Mr Fillon had reassured him that he had not intended to call Britain's credit rating into question.

"The Deputy Prime Minister accepted his explanation but made the point that recent remarks from members of the French government about the UK economy were simply unacceptable and that steps should be taken to calm the rhetoric," the spokesman said. The men agreed to speak again shortly to discuss economic co-operation.

Meanwhile, a draft version of proposals for a fiscal compact to govern the eurozone emerged in Brussels. Under the plans, a summit of members would take place twice a year and countries that run up large deficits could be brought before the European Court of Justice.

The 700 Year Bitch: The Worst Insults

Jean Froissart (1333-1410)

"The more blood they [the English] shed, the crueller and more ruthless they become."

Francois Rabelais (c1494-1553)

"Sot comme un Anglois." [Drunk as an Englishman.]

Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet (c1494-1553)

"Ah, la perfide Angleterre..."

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

"The English are a nation of shopkeepers"

Stendhal (1783-1842)

"The English are, I think, the most obtuse and barbarous people in the world."

Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970)

"Non." (Vetoing the UK's bid to join the European Economic Community in 1963.)

Jacques Chirac (2005)

"[Tony Blair] is pathetic and tragic ... worse than Thatcher, just as arrogant but selfish too."

Bernard Delanoë (2005)

After London won the right to host the 2012 Olympics, the Mayor of Paris complained: "The victory was won by other means than Olympic ones."

Francois Fillon (2011)

The French Prime Minister, said on Thursday: "Our British friends have a higher deficit and debt [than us] but it seems the ratings agencies have not yet noticed.

Nicolas Sarkozy (2011)

A frustrated French President revealed in a magazine interview this week that he thought David Cameron "behaved like an obstinate kid, with a single obsession: protecting the City. No country supported him. That is the mark of a political defeat. I manoeuvred well."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone