Miliband and Hollande 'turning tide against austerity'

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Francois Hollande enjoys better relations with Britain's leader of the opposition than its PM
Francois Hollande enjoys better relations with Britain's leader of the opposition than its PM

Francois Hollande is seeking a "different way" through Europe's economic troubles, Ed Miliband has said after meeting with the French president.

The Labour leader was speaking after beating David Cameron to the Elysee Palace, in a diplomatic blow to the prime minister.

Miliband is the first senior UK politician to meet Hollande at the Elysee since the French socialist leader ousted Nicolas Sarkozy from power in May.

The pair addressed the problem of youth unemployment as they discussed the alternatives to what one Labour source called "failed Camerokozy economics".


"The points of agreement we have were around the fact that the tide is turning against an austerity approach, that there needs to be a different way forward found," Miliband said after the meeting.

"What President Hollande is seeking to do in France and what he is seeking to do in leading the debate in Europe is find that different way forward.

"We are in agreement in seeking that new way that needs to be found and I think can be found."

Over one million 16- to 24-year-olds are out of work in Britain, representing 22% of the total – the same percentage as that in France.

The left-wing leaders' meeting underlines the difficult working relationship now established between Hollande and Cameron, who endured an awkward press conference in Downing Street on July 10th.

Cameron had promised to roll out the red carpet for French businesses wishing to escape France's high taxes in London.

Hollande responded by saying he admired Cameron's "sense of humour" and pointed out the French top rate of tax is 41%, compared to 45% in Britain.

The British government's focus on consolidating the public finances and push through supply-side reforms is at odds with the new French president's instincts, according to Philip Whyte, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform think-tank.

"France is almost at the opposite end of that debate," he told politics.co.uk.

"It is arguing for greater fiscal leeway to ease the pace at which public finances are being consolidated. Hollande's victory has sharpened the police differences with Britain – not just in the economic field but also in defence."

He predicted that UK-French relations are only likely to get more "prickly" in the coming months as their different approaches to the eurozone crisis and reforms to the single market are addressed.

Cameron, who refused to meet Hollande during the French socialist's campaign against Sarkozy, is set to meet with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney later this week.

"If you wanted to read a lot into it, you could say it's Holland trying to get his own back for the snub Cameron made to Holland during the French presidential election campaign," Whyte added.

But he warned: "Sometimes we can read too much into this."

The Romney meeting is also likely to frustrate Barack Obama and his campaign for providing valuable publicity to the Republican cause.

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