Franco-British spat

16 December 2011

Bashing Britain plays well in France, and bashing France plays well in Britain, so it may not be surprising that there has been a spat between French and British politicians, rumbling on for the past few days about the strengths of these two countries’ economies. Mostly, it has been a series of attack by French politicians and bankers on the soundness of British economy. The French ire is directed more towards the credit agencies that have been muttering about downgrading France, than to Britain as such, though the French may be feeling that the whole market unjustly favours les anglo-saxons.

It feels a bit like witnessing an argument between Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee. A catastrophe in one will affect the other, and surely, there are, or there should be, more to unite these two countries than to divide them. There is no doubt that both France and Britain face tough economic times ahead, for different reasons, but there seems to be very little room for manoeuvre for both countries. France is in the eurozone, so any policies and directions to ameliorate the situation broadly within the eurozone will ultimately depend on Germany, and the French state will need to cut the deficit and debt as part of the recent agreement. Britain isn’t in the eurozone, however, what can Britain actually do, with the oft-argued advantage of not having the euro? The interest rate is already low, the Bank of England has already printed quite a lot of money, and what would be the effect of devaluing the pound, when the country has a large trade deficit and the inflation rate has been pretty high? The British government needs to cut the deficit and debt as well.

Arguments can be made that one or the other of these states is better, but that relative difference pales into insignificance, when the magnitude of the problems ahead is considered. Misery loves company? Perhaps.