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UK worse off than us, says Baroin

France's finance minister has taken a swipe at the state of Britain's economy, hours after French experts predicted his own country would slide into a recession.

Speaking on Europe-1 radio, Francois Baroin said that the situation was even worse in Britain, stating: "We would prefer to be French right now than British, in terms of the economy."

Cross-Channel tensions were stoked last week when the two countries' leaders clashed at an EU summit.

David Cameron was the only leader out of 27 in the European Union to refuse to consider a new treaty that would impose tougher controls on national budgets.

Mr Baroin joined France's central bank chief in saying ratings agencies should be paying more attention to Britain instead.

"The economic situation of Britain is worrying today," Mr Baroin said, without explaining why.

Bank chief Christian Noyer said in an interview earlier this week that downgrading France's credit rating would be "unjustified concerning the economic fundamentals".

"Or else they should start by downgrading the United Kingdom, which has higher deficits, as much debt, more inflation, and less growth than we do, and whose credit is collapsing," he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr Cameron insisted the French criticism was baseless. "We have a credible plan endorsed by numerous international organisations," she told reporters.

The French statistics agency Insee has forecast that the country's economy would shrink this quarter and next amid a worsening outlook for the whole 17-nation eurozone.

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