French minister apologises for 'autism comments'

The word 'autism' has different connotations in france
The word 'autism' has different connotations in france

By staff

The French minister who accused the Tories of an 'autistic' policy on Europe has apologised for using the phrase.

Speaking to the Guardian yesterday, French Europe minister Pierre Lellouche said the Conservatives had a "bizarre sense of autism" around their EU policy, announced by David Cameron on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Mr Lellouche said: "Pierre Lellouche fully understands the emotion that has been aroused and bitterly regrets that he may have wounded people.

"The words used obviously do not reflect the substance of his thought and the clumsiness was completely unintended.

"In French, the term autistic has been totally trivialised through overuse. President Sarkozy is called autistic every day.

"I understand that in English that this word could shock. That was a glitch. It was a misunderstanding."

Meanwhile, other UK politicians said the row was merely a forshadowing of future events if the Tories attained power.

"This is the kind of petty squabbling we can expect day after day if the Tories get into power," said Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey.

"The French minister's comments illustrate the frustration and dismay felt in European capitals over the Tories' new policy on Europe."


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