Britain seeks to calm economic war of words with France

18th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg sought Sunday to draw a line under a row with France over the state of their economies, insisting cooperation was vital to end the eurozone crisis.

Clegg, leader of the europhile Liberal Democrats, also insisted Britain would work with Europe despite Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's veto of a new EU treaty to save the euro, which angered fellow EU leaders.

The economy row erupted when the French central bank governor and senior ministers lined up to attack the the British economy, suggesting rating agencies should be mulling a debt downgrade of Britain rather than France.

The British deputy premier, who had led the fightback against the French criticism, on Sunday said it was now time to end the "beauty contest" over their economies.

"Franco-British tit-for-tat language is something which crops up from time to time in our history and always has done," Clegg told Sky News television.

"It's always a bit of a tug of war relationship, but history shows that France and Britain always do best when we pull in the same direction which is exactly what I hope we will do."

He added: "There's no possible salvation for Europe and there's no route out of these very acute economic difficulties that the whole continent faces unless we act together."

The row has further strained Franco-British relations which were already tense after London and Paris clashed at the EU summit on December 9 over British demands, which led to London's veto on a new EU treaty.

Clegg also insisted Sunday that Britain would stay at the negotiating table for talks on a new fiscal pact, which was agreed by the other 26 EU states following London's veto.

"When your national interest is to help the eurozone sort itself out, then of course we need to be at the table as much as we can," he said.

Britain's EU veto has opened up a rift in the Conservative-led coalition, in which the Lib Dems are the junior partner.

Clegg attacked eurosceptic Conservatives, whom he accused of talking about a potential eurozone break-up with "glee."

© 2011 AFP

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