Saturday 9 November 2013

France: The Longest Running Love-Hate Relationship

She's in trouble again
Further to Mr Q's excellent post yesterday, the 1000-year relationship between Britain and France really does have the characteristics of a soap opera.  In the words of Nelson, an Englishman should hate the French as he hates the Devil himself: and when I was a staff officer it was the convention that the first suggestion for a plan to solve a strategy problem - whatever it was - would always be: "Phase 1, bombard Paris".
They bake their bread in such a naughty shape. 
They brag about their wine and worship the grape. 
They criticise our food but then they eat crêpe. 
That's why i hate the french, oh, 
That's why i hate the french.
On the other hand, just how many Brits speak French, love the country and its wines, have houses there etc etc?  We have fought each other so many times; our rival empires grew together; we faced all the same problems - we know and respect each other so well, it's a family quarrel, au fond.  This wretched nuclear deal with EDF has thrown us together once again: both governments will be going cap-in-hand (or in the French case, CAP in hand) to Brussels for approval** of the gigantic state aid it involves, God help us.

And now, as 'Kayter' said in the comments yesterday ... and now Le Downgrade.

For any who have not yet done so, Evans-Pritchard on this in the DTel is well worth a read: one of his best.  But by way of weekend rumination, what do we all reckon to this complicated relationship with France ? Who else can put it into words ?


** Being turned down by the EC may be our best hope on this one 


Blue Eyes said...

Great post.

I have no experience of fighting the French (or anyone really) but I agree that Britain and France have something of a symbiotic relationship.

Just imagine if we had merged in the 1950s! Would we have got the best of both worlds (great education, great wine, the English legal system and a free-market economy)? Or would it have been a big old mess?

I love France, it is a fantastique place to have on our doorstep. And we can thank France for trying out madcap social and economic experiments so that we can avoid them.

This is what is great about Europe and what made Europe great in the first place: lots of different competing systems up close and personal battling it out in real life. Currently the UK system is proving itself to be better at dealing with world events, but it wasn't that long ago that lots of Brits moved to Paris to further their careers.

Also, the cheese.

andrew said...

Thanks for the link, never read him before.

Perhaps someone can tell can me how

"It warns too that France is on borrowed time with a state sector over 56pc of GDP, now higher than Sweden, but without Swedish labour flexibility and free enterprise. We all know this."

is solved by

"It is not too late for Hollande to avoid this horrible political fate. He can at any time pluck up courage, forge a grand reflation coalition"

How does inflation reduce the relative size of the state and liberalise the economy?

Demetrius said...

But France now is not that of forty years ago much less of the past. They are lost in Europe and will never return.

Blue Eyes said...

Andrew, isn't the idea that inflating might buy the time (or acceptance) of the needed underlying reforms? This is what Abe is trying - reflating to get a bit of momentum going while reforming taxation, employment laws and unwinding protectionism.

Elby the Beserk said...

Nick, you should talk to Lil regarding the French. Her views are, shall we say, trenchant?

What I do know is that they are the rudest people I have ever encountered.

Bill Quango MP said...

Mr Evans-Pritchard says ..Without wishing to cause too much offence, he [Hollande] risks becoming the Pierre Laval..

Hard to think of anything more offensive to call a French leader,

Laval was found guilty of high treason, and executed by firing squad in 1945 by the De Gaulle government.

lilith said...

I bloody hate the French...although the individuals I know who live here are perfectly likeable. I was fluent at age 13 due to three exchanges, but the family I stayed with was completely mad, and I was got at Savile style by a 45 year old family friend, and a cousin of my exchange who was in his 20s. My cousin was raped by her boss when she was an au pair in Paris. Never send your daughters (or your pretty sons) there unaccompanied! I have it so bad that I can't travel on a channel ferry due to the language being spoken all around me...It wouldn't be so bad if I couldn't understand what they are saying. Their literature and films seem to consist of tales of women going mad. (Probably because they don't eat enough and their men are into kids.) Then there was their crafty move of building scores of nuclear power stations that they can't possibly afford to decommission, and for which you and I and the Greeks will have to pay when the time comes. Nicolas Sarkozy, Jonny Halliday, Jaques Delors...the list is endless. Nuke em, I say. Bring back the 100 years war.

Nick Drew said...

So, summing up then, Trenchant Lil, on balance, all things considered, taking the rough with the smooth ...

that's nuke the frogs, then ?

Electro-Kevin said...

In 100 years both nations will be united. Sharing government and a common religion.

lilith said...

..with all lessons in Arabic, Kev...

Yup, nuke 'em anyway :-)

Scan said...

I like A.E.P. he is indeed The Guvner. Always makes me smile as his dolefulness reminds me a little of Doc Daneeka from Catch 22 (the book, not the film, natch).

Had a friend who used to work with/for him. Said he was totally mad but very shrewd.

Ryan said...

Sadly, crepe only rhymes with grape in England.

hovis said...

Re: the earlier mention about the 1956 merger proposal. It always amused me, it would never work long term imho, we're too split geographically, (us as an island) not to mean a politcal force occurs take power to a local splitting the whole. Remember this essentially happened under the Angevins, when the domain of the French King at the time was a small area the centre of what we now call France.