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."

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Colin Firth and Emma Stone star together in Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's 1920s romance

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Life and Style
The findings suggest that some of the genetic factors which influence birth size may play a part in influencing an infant’s mental development
health...while smaller babies have greater schizophrenia risk, study claims
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

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Maths Teacher - Evening session

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week