LONDON - France is giving Britain a "good kicking", deputy premier Nick Clegg said in an interview on Saturday, as the spat over each other's economies rumbled on. Clegg warned against lurches into xenophobia and chauvinism, the day after telling French Prime Minister Francois Fillon to "calm the rhetoric" as Britain hit back at French criticism of its finances.
The deputy prime minister said it was important to "keep a level head while others are losing theirs", as he vowed to mend bridges in the European Union. The cross-Channel row comes after Britain clashed with France at a dramatic EU summit last week when British Prime Minister David Cameron refused to join members of the eurozone currency bloc in a new fiscal pact. "We all need to go away, have a bit of hiatus, a bit of time to have Christmas, to eat some mince pies or whatever the French equivalent is. Everyone is a bit tired," Clegg told The Guardian newspaper. The Liberal Democrat leader said Britain may be getting caught in the cross-fire of the French presidential election campaign.
"There is nothing more popular in French politics -- it has always been the case and it will always be so -- than giving 'perfidious Albion' a good kicking from time to time," he said. "At the end of the day, France and Britain have always worked out it is better to work together rather than shout at each other across the Channel."
The Guardian said Clegg, a europhile, admitted a repair job was needed to fix relations with Britain's European partners. Analysts said French officials seemed to be trying to deflect attention from the country's own economic concerns.