British economic situation 'very worrying': French minister

16th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

French Finance Minister Francois Baroin raised concerns about the state of the British economy on Friday and said France was in better shape.

"It's true that the economic situation in Great Britain is very worrying and that we prefer being French rather than British on the economic front at the moment," Baroin said on Europe 1 radio.

"We don't want to be given any lessons and we don't give any," he said, fuelling a British-French row that broke out Thursday when senior French officials mockingly criticised the British economy, arguing that ratings agencies are targeting the wrong country for a debt downgrade.

"They should start by degrading the United Kingdom, which has greater deficits, as much debt, more inflation and less growth than us," central bank chief Christian Noyer had told the regional newspaper Le Telegramme.

Noyer also warned that Britain, which clashed with France at last week's EU crisis summit and refused to join the members of the eurozone single currency bloc in a new fiscal pact, was facing a credit crunch.

The British press reacted furiously on Friday.

His comments were dismissed as "outrageous" and "plain wrong" by The Times.

"It is simply not the job of a central bank governor to urge the downgrading of another country's credit," it added.

"There is only one good answer when asked about another country's rating. 'Sans commentaire'," argued the broadsheet.

Popular tabloid The Sun ran a scathing leading article attacking "treacherous" Noyer under the headline "Gall of Gaul."

"You find out who your friends are in a crisis," it continued. "We shouldn't be surprised, then, when the head of the Bank of France tries to better his country's economic position by sabotaging ours."

"Monsieur Noyer, you're a AAA-rated fool," it concluded.

The Daily Telegraph, which carried "France declares war of words on Britain" as its front-page headline, also quoted Conservative lawmaker David Ruffley calling the comments "another example of Gallic self-delusion on an epic scale".

US ratings agencies Standard & Poor's and Moody's have warned that France is close to losing its prized triple-A debt rating over fears that eurozone members can not control their rising debt and deficits.

Britain, which is outside the euro and which has the Bank of England to act as a lender of last resort in the event of debt problems, is seen as a safe haven by bond buyers as the debt crisis engulfs the eurozone on its doorstep

© 2011 AFP

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