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Germany and France: Its War! (of words, anyway)

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande have words. Photo: Reuters

They’ve given up pretending. The two countries who have jointly led Europe for decades have fallen out so badly that they can no longer be polite to each other. Divorce can be a brutal thing.

France’s ruling socialist party took the gloves off last week in a leaked document that was spectacularly rude about both the UK and Germany.

David Cameron was described as a “Thatcherite... who only conceives of a Europe a la carte and of rebates”, but the bombshell was the talk of “the selfish intransigence of Chancellor Merkel, who thinks only of German depositors, Berlin’s trade balance and her electoral future”.

We knew things were bad, and this from a party that currently controls every level of Government in France.

David Cameron has been described as a Thatcherite. Credit: PA

Angela Merkel refused to even meet Francois Hollande during the Presidential campaign, and she is clearly a long way from being forgiven.

Not to be outdone, the German response has been equally frank.

The head of Merkel’s coalition partners the FDP has called France “Europe’s big problem child” while Germany’s economy minister Philipp Rosler has produced a document listing those problems, including “strongly increased costs of labour... the second lowest annual working time in the EU... and the highest tax burden in the Eurozone”. That is not mincing words.

Newly appointed Italian Prime Minister Enrico Credit: Reuters

The north-south divide in the Eurozone is now almost complete, with President Hollande aligning himself firmly with the south in its rebellion against German imposed austerity.

Italy’s new Prime Minister Enrico Letta is letting the brakes off, announcing €6bn in tax cuts that can only be paid for by extra borrowing.

Spain has unilaterally delayed its austerity programme by 2 years.

Portugal’s Constitutional Court is making it very difficult for the Government in Lisbon to cut deficits and spending any further.

And all the while unemployment rises, hitting 12.1% in the Eurozone today.

Before long something is going to have to give, and there is no evidence that Mrs Merkel is going to be the one to back down.

But the days of Paris and Berlin sorting things out between them are truly over.