UK Politics

French PM meets David Cameron and attacks UK 'caricature'

David Cameron and Manuel Valls in Downing Street Image copyright Peter Macdiarmid/PA wire
Image caption The French Prime Minister met David Cameron to discuss boosting competition in France

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has attacked the British "caricature" of France.

Speaking at the London Guildhall, Mr Valls said the British media consistently portrayed France as "left-wing and anti-business".

Earlier in the day, Mr Valls met David Cameron in Downing Street.

The two prime ministers spoke about the ongoing threat of European recruits to Islamic State, as well as economic co-operation.

Mr Valls, a member of the French Socialist Party, was appointed prime minister by President Francois Hollande in March.

Chancellor George Osborne was also in attendance.

'Different political families'

Mr Cameron said the two nations were "strong allies" who faced "the same challenge in responding to Isil [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] in Iraq and Syria".

He added that although he and his French counterpart were from "different political families", he was confident "there is a lot we can share in terms of experience about what needs to happen" in the future.

The two men also discussed immigration in the European Union.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The prime minister raised the issue of free movement and said it should not be an unqualified right."

"The prime minister thanked Prime Minister Valls for their co-operation in stronger security measures at Calais, and they agreed that more should be done across Europe to reduce the pull factors and to get countries where migrants arrive first to take responsibility for them."

'Bias, prejudices and attacks'

In his speech to a group of financiers and executives in the City of London, Mr Valls said sections of the British media and business classes needed to get past a "caricature" of France.

He opened the speech by saying: "A French prime minister in the City is an event - a socialist French prime minister in the City is a revolution.

"Every day I read your press, I listen and I watch what is being said about France. Too often I see in some of your newspapers some bias, prejudices and attacks as well," he said, with a tendency to portray France as "left-wing and anti-business".

He also referenced the comments of John Lewis managing director Andy Street, who apologised last week after describing France as a nation "in decline" and saying he would advise anyone with investments in the country to "get them out quickly".

Deficit reduction

Mr Valls said on Monday: "Let me remind this British businessman who all of a sudden had some sort of startling vision and said that France was finished.

"He has presented excuses and apologised, and I would like to thank him for doing that, because he had forgotten that France was the fifth-largest economy in the world and second in Europe."

Describing his government as "pro-business", Mr Valls went on to say that the 75% tax rate on high earners introduced by President Hollande would be reversed next year. He also announced that shops and museums in France would soon be permitted to open on Sundays.

The visit comes in the wake of news last week that the European Commission is likely to reject France's draft budget at the end of this month, invoking for the first time its power to demand changes to a national budget.

The commission will do so to ensure France meets its deficit reduction target of ensuring the deficit is under 3% of GDP by 2015.

Mr Valls said this was "technically speaking simply not possible", and the French government has said 2017 will be the earliest it can reach this goal.

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