Bad start? Hollande signals upcoming fight with Britain

Hollande was victorious in the French elections
Hollande was victorious in the French elections
Ian Dunt By

Britain is "indifferent to the fate of the euro area", the new French president has said, in a sign relations between London and Paris may cool with the arrival of a left-wing leader.

The Socialist was snubbed by David Cameron when he visited Britain just before the election, despite strong signs at the time he would beat Nicolas Sarkozy.

"In addition to relative indifference to the fate of the euro area, Britain is more protected because of speculation the central bank may intervene directly to finance the debt," Francois Hollande told the French-language version of the Slate website.

"The British have been particularly shy about the issues of financial regulation, and attentive only to the interests of the City – hence their reluctance to see the introduction of a tax on financial transactions and tax harmonisation in Europe."

The president-elect's comments are not a million miles away from the views of his centre-right predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, but they suggest Mr Cameron's refusal to see him before the election may have started the relationship off on a bad foot.

Mr Cameron called Mr Hollande after he was declared the winner on Sunday night and said he looked forward to "building on the very close relationship that already exists between the UK and France".

But it is Labour leader Ed Miliband who has the closer relationship with Mr Hollande. The two men held high-level talks with their senior staff when he visited the UK.

Nick Clegg tried to smooth over the differences during a Q&A with factory workers in Essex today.

"France is one of our oldest, strongest and most important allies - sometimes rivals as well over our history," he said.

"Hollande wants to put emphasis on growth. Who's going to disagree with that? But he knows you can't create growth on the shifting sands of debt."

He added: "Any emphasis on growth from whatever direction on the political spectrum has got to be good."

Of far more concern to the president-elect will be difficulties in his relationship with Europe's most powerful centre-right leader, chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

Ms Merkel has already written off the idea of rewriting the European fiscal pact, despite promises made by Mr Hollande on the campaign trail.

"From our point of view, a new negotiation of the fiscal compact is not possible," her spokesperson said.

Parliamentary party leader Volker Kauder was even clearer, saying: "Germany is not here to finance French election promises."

The market suffered a rollercoaster day in the back of news about the French and Greek elections, where the far-left party Syriza party came second and is in the process of trying to form a coalition with other leftist groups.

The euro initially fell to a three-and-a-half-year low, before rallying. The French stock market ended up closing at up nearly two points.

The French president's first trip will be to Berlin but he will finally meet Mr Cameroon at the G8 summit in Camp David next week.


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