Finance Minister Francois Baroin joined a chorus of French criticism of the British economy and of credit-rating agencies Friday, exposing strained relations with London as concern grows that France's credit rating might be cut.
The economic situation in Britain today is very worrying, and you'd rather be French than British in economic terms, Baroin told Europe 1 radio.
Relations between age-old rivals Paris and London have tensed since Prime Minister David Cameron refused to sign up a week ago to a European summit deal on the euro zone's debt crisis.
Some French leaders are irked that powerful global credit ratings agencies seem to take a rosier view of the British economy than the French, which they consider to be in a healthier state despite the euro crisis.
Standard & Poor's is reviewing France's top-notch AAA rating for a possible downgrade, as part of a wider review of euro zone ratings following the summit deal.
In contrast it said in October it was keeping its AAA rating for Britain's stable economy, though this could come under pressure if London strayed off course on planned deficit cuts.
Bank of France chief Christian Noyer attacked ratings agencies this week, saying that if they considered economic fundamentals they should downgrade Britain - which had as much debt, more inflation, less growth than us - before France.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon highlighted the same concern Thursday, saying during a visit to Brazil:
When I look at our British friends, who are even more indebted than us and carrying a bigger deficit, what I see is that the ratings agencies so far don't seem to have noticed.
Jean-Pierre Jouyet, head of France's AMF markets regulator, said this week that Britain's political right was the world's stupidest, as it served purely financial industry interests and not the national interest.
For a long time it was said that the French right was the world's stupidest, he said. I think the English right has shown it is capable of being the world's stupidest, in serving purely financial interests and not the national interest.
France and Britain, with a long history of rivalry and of vying for influence in Europe, clashed most recently at the summit when Cameron vetoed a revision to the European treaty, forcing other member states to seek other procedures to tackle the crisis.
It's true that we have no lessons to give, but we don't have to receive any (from Britain) either, Baroin said.
(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur and Brian Love; Additional reporting by Fiona Shaikh in London, edited by Richard Meares)