You know how it is when a marriage goes bad: a throwaway remark by one partner can set off a tidal wave of resentment in the other.
That seems to have happened in the frayed relationship between France and Britain.
Yesterday, Christian Noyer, head of the Bank of France, the country's central bank, gave an interview to a provincial paper in Brittany, Le Telegramme. The subject of France losing her AAA rating from Standard & Poor's came up. S & P is hot button subject in France and Noyer said, if the agency was considering cutting France's rating - it is - then it should probably cut Britain's first.
Noyer said, "They should start by downgrading Britain which has more deficits, as much debt, more inflation, less growth than us and whose credit is collapsing.”
Sacre bleu & Zut alors, quelle tempete!!!!!!
Today's British papers are full of reports about M. Noyer's comments. "French leaders declare a war of words on Britain" shouts the eurosceptic Daily Telegraph.
The Guardian is more circumspect in its report, "France stokes euro zone row with call for UK credit downgrade"
And what are they saying in France? Well, nothing really.
A quick perusal of the main French papers this morning shows a blog post at Le Monde but nothing else. And the blog is mostly concerned about whether France will be downgraded further than Germany when S & P finally makes its decision.
OK, I understand why Le Monde and the others aren't paying much attention to Noyer's remarks. There is an emergency weather situation in France as a storm is tearing in from the Atlantic with hurricane force winds. Plus there is the fall out from former president Jacques Chirac's conviction yesterday on fraud charges. He is the first head of state since Marshall Petain to be convicted of anything in a court of law.
But it there is a war brewing surely there must be two sides to fight it.
Clearly not from the French point of view. As I said at the top, when a relationship goes bad the slightest off-hand remark can cause offense.
IN the end this really is unimportant. Ratings are going to mean nothing when both countries return to recession - if they are not already there.