Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L), and British Prime Minister David Cameron leave Lancaster House following an Anglo-French summit, in central London on November 2, 2010.

BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images/BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

Good fences make good neighbours, as the old saying goes. But even the English Channel is not wide enough to keep the French and British from sniping at each other.

In the week since Prime Minister David Cameron refused to sign on to the French-German project for a euro zone makeover, the centuries-old love-hate relationship is swinging back to, well, a slugfest.

"In terms of the economic situation, one prefers to be French rather than British at the moment," said French Finance Minister François Baroin today on Europe 1 radio.

Story continues below advertisement

Just the day before, the head of France's central bank, Christian Noyer, said Britain's credit rating ought to be downgraded because its inflation and debt are worse than those of France. It was a gem of relative reasoning.

Mr. Noyer, who also serves on the European Central Bank that runs euro zone monetary policy, was quickly attacked in the British media.

"The gall of Gaul!" screamed a headline on the online site of the tabloid Daily Mail.

The escalation of insults recalls earlier explosive spats between "the frogs" and "les rosbifs" over who is more civilized, although with one big difference. This time the insults are coming from high-ranking government officials.

Even President Nicolas Sarkozy has joined the fray, commenting that Mr. Cameron had acted like a spoiled child at the European Union summit in Brussels last week.

Then, France and Germany, which both use the euro, pushed hard for a new EU treaty on debt ceilings and fiscal regulation. The goal was to reassure the markets with the combined weight of an EU-wide commitment.

They managed to get an agreement – but without Britain – that was remarkable because it would tie the remaining 26 EU countries to a fiscal austerity treaty, even though only 17 of them use the common currency. Prime Minister Cameron said he could not agree to any treaty that envisioned EU-wide regulation of financial-sector taxation.

Story continues below advertisement

The question of whose debt is bigger and who is in trouble also recalls the old Russian fable of the farmer who is jealous of his neighbour for having two cows while he has just one. Instead of asking a helpful sorcerer for a second cow, the farmer wants one of his neighbour's cows killed.

It all seems more than a bit unseemly to fight over who is in worse shape economically. The French statistical agency, INSEE, just reported that France has slipped into recession again after clawing its way out in early 2010. It should pull out, barely, in the first quarter of 2012. But the overall climate is one of stagnation.

Except, of course, in the cross-Channel climate.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies