The diplomatic frost at the latest EU summit has been snowballing in the press.
Neither the French nor the British hid their displeasure. The air hung thick with irritation, and leaders’ hands brushed past unshaken.
There was a crackle in the room after London’s veto of EU treaty reform proposed by Paris and Berlin.
President Sarkozy weighed his words underscoring the UK’s isolation in the agreement reached by 26 of the EU’s 27 member countries.
Sarkozy said: “About the discord with our friends the British, well, it’s simple. To accept a 27-way treaty reform, David Cameron has asked for something we all consider unacceptable: a protocol letting the United Kingdom opt out of certain rules on financial services.”
Off the record, said French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé, Sarkozy called Cameron an ‘obstinate brat’ (gamin buté) for his behaviour.
Now others have joined the fray. The British conservative Daily Telegraph gave high play to remarks by the French finance minister, who said ‘It’s better to be French than British’. François Baroin said on radio that Britain ought look out for its credit rating before France does.
“We don’t give lessons but we don’t need any either,” he said, but added: “We’ve already had some, it’s true.” His clincher was: “Britain’s economy is very worrying; economically, we prefer being French today than British.” And he repeated his ‘don’t try preaching to us’ comment.
This came on the heels of warnings over France’s triple-A credit rating, which prompted Bank of France governor Christian Noyer to suggest why not start with Britain, since it’s far riper for the chop.
Oh the cordiale days of entente, how quickly they date. Remember Sarkozy and Cameron in September, how close they seemed in Libya, now thrust apart by the quaking euro.
Failing full agreement on decisive policy measures to end the euro region debt turmoil, all euro countries are facing a ratings review.