French President Nicolas Sarkozy should also feel “ashamed” of his reported outburst at British Prime Minister David Cameron after last week’s European Union treaty change negotiations, a leading title argued.
French bank chief Christian Noyer told regional newspaper Le Telegramme on Thursday that rating agencies – which have warned France could lose its top AAA rating – should instead turn their fire on Britain due to a slew of gloomy economic data.
His comments were dismissed as “outrageous” and “plain wrong” by The Times.
“It is simply not the job of a central bank governor to urge the downgrading of another country’s credit,” it added.
“There is only one good answer when asked about another country’s rating. ‘Sans commentaire’,” argued the broadsheet.
Popular tabloid The Sun ran a scathing leading article attacking “treacherous” Noyer under the headline “Gall of Gaul.”
“You find out who your friends are in a crisis,” it continued. “We shouldn’t be surprised, then, when the head of the Bank of France tries to better his country’s economic position by sabotaging ours.”
“Monsieur Noyer, you’re a AAA-rated fool,” it concluded.
The Financial Times joined in the condemnation, accusing Noyer of “resorting to nationalism”.
“Noyer’s suggestion… would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that he is the governor of the Bank of France,” added the business broadsheet.
The Daily Telegraph, which carried “France declares war of words on Britain” as its front-page headline, also quoted Conservative lawmaker David Ruffley calling the comments “another example of Gallic self-delusion on an epic scale”.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon later supported Noyer’s comments.
The Times said the pair’s behaviour was “inexcusable” while the Telegraph claimed it revealed “an alarming ignorance of the reasons behind Europe’s sovereign debt crisis”.
Britain and France clashed at last week’s EU crisis summit when London refused to join the other 26 members of the European Union in agreeing on a new fiscal pact to prop up the euro.
The eurosceptic Telegraph said Sarkozy should be “ashamed” after it was reported he had accused Cameron of behaving like “an obstinate kid” during negotiations and that he had boasted of leading the EU in saying “no to the English”.
“His comments confirm the suspicion that he placed Mr Cameron in an impossible position, knowing he could then be used as a convenient scapegoat,” said its editorial. “And they call us perfidious.”
The usually pro-Europe Independent and Guardian declined to comment on the French reaction, the latter instead dedicating its editorial to the conviction of former French leader Jacques Chirac.