There may be trouble ahead: Cameron and Hollande to finally meet

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Hollande and Cameron already have a difficult relationship and they haven't even met yet.
Hollande and Cameron already have a difficult relationship and they haven't even met yet.

After months of snubs and thinly-concealed barbs, David Cameron and the new French president will finally meet in the neutral territory of Washington DC today.

The Anglo-French mini-summit, which will take place among a G8 meeting expected to focus on the eurozone crisis, will also take in subjects such as Afghanistan and growth strategies.

The difficult relationship between the two men began when Mr Cameron refused to meet him on a trip to London. The prime minster then gave a press conference with then-president Nicolas Sarkozy and expressed his support for the incumbent.

Once elected, Francois Hollande fired back a warning shot, saying Britain is "indifferent to the fate of the euro area" and too intent on protecting the City from financial regulation.


Downing Street has been slightly unnerved by the Socialist's victory, whose focus on an anti-austerity message ties in strongly with how Labour is likely to run its campaign in 2015.

At this week's PMQs, Mr Cameron suggested his economic policy was not so different from Mr Hollande's – a comment which prompted an incredulous response from Ed Miliband.

"He's now trying to claim the president of France as an ally. What is he on?" the Labour leader said.

"It's a shame he didn't see the French president three months ago when he was in the United Kingdom."

But Mr Cameron reiterated the similarities between their economic agendas on the ITV Daybreak sofa this morning.

"Even with the election of a Socialist president in France, he's actually said 'how am I going to stimulate the economy, I'm not going to do it through extra public spending, because actually we've got to cut back on that'," he said.

"His target for balancing his budget is actually a faster target than we have here in the UK."

One of Mr Hollande's election pledges involved withdrawing France's 3,400 troops from Afghanistan this year – two years ahead of schedule. Mr Cameron and Barack Obama are likely to have concerns about that move.

Yesterday afternoon Mr Cameron took part in a "constructive" conference call with European leaders, including Mr Holande, Angela Merkel, Mario Monti and European Council president Herman van Rompuy.

The call came just hours after Mr Cameron made a speech warning the eurozone it was time to "make-up-or-break-up".

As Mr Cameron made the speech, chaos continued on the continent. Greece installed a temporary technocrat government ahead of  afresh election next month, after the various parties failed to form a coalition.

The country's credit rating suffered a new downgrade with Fitch moving it from B- to CCC.

Shares were down across Europe and Spain saw signs of a run of recently-nationalised bank Bankia.

Credit rating agency Moody's downgraded 16 Spanish banks by between one and three notches, while Santander UK was brought down one notch to A2.

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