Britain slams 'unacceptable' French attacks on economy
British deputy premier Nick Clegg told French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Friday criticism of the British economy was "simply unacceptable," in London's first high-level intervention in the row.
Fillon called the British deputy premier from Rio de Janeiro to clarify his remarks about the British economy, but Clegg's office said he had demanded "steps should be taken to calm the rhetoric".
"Fillon called from Rio de Janeiro to clarify his recent comments about the UK's credit rating," said a statement.
"Fillon made clear it had not been his intention to call into question the UK's rating but to highlight that ratings agencies appeared more focused on economic governance than deficit levels."
Clegg "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," it said.
"Fillon agreed and they both undertook to speak again shortly to discuss economic cooperation."
Fillon called Clegg after telling reporters during his visit to Brazil that ratings agencies seemed to be ignoring the state of British government finances.
The row erupted on Thursday after France's central bank chief, Christian Noyer, said rating agencies should be considering downgrading Britain, after the agencies warned over the state of France's finances.
It escalated when French Finance Minister Francois Baroin and Fillon added their voices to the criticism.
Clegg is the leader of the pro-European Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in a coalition with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives.
Cameron rocked the European Union last week by vetoing a proposed treatment to shore up the euro, sparking criticism from his European partners.
© 2011 AFP