POLITICS

French PM Manuel Valls Hopes Sunday Shopping Will Revive Economy

06/10/2014 15:11 BST | Updated 06/10/2014 15:59 BST
BEN STANSALL via Getty Images
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls delivers a speech at the Guildhall in London, on October 6, 2014. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday defended his Socialist government against a stream of criticism of its economic and business reforms during a visit to London. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

France will now see shops stay open on Sundays, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has revealed, in a bid to turn around the country's flagging economy.

The premier's announcement came as he visited Britain today, just days after the head of the John Lewis department store was forced to apologise for branding the country "hopeless and downbeat".

Speaking to business leaders in the City of London, Valls said that his announcement, as part of a major economic reform programme, would be "bad news to give you here in London". The French government is also planning to allow museums to open for seven days a week and to end the 35-hour working week.

The French Socialist premier insisted that he was pro-business and that the government's 75% top rate of tax would be gone by January. He also warned that the European Union would be "amputated" if Britain decided to leave under David Cameron's upcoming EU referendum.

Valls' visit comes days after John Lewis boss Andy Street attacked France as "sclerotic, hopeless and downbeat", warning British entrepreneurs that the country was "finished".

In an attack that provoked a fierce French backlash, Street told an audience of entrepreneurs: “I have never been to a country more ill at ease . . . nothing works and worse, nobody cares about it. If you’ve got investments in French businesses, get them out quickly.”

Street's comments have clearly piqued the French, who took to Twitter to label him an "idiot" and tell him to "fuck off".

Guillaume Maujean, editor in chief of finance and markets at the French newspaper Les Echos, wrote: "This 'French-bashing' is getting grotesque."

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Street is not the first business figure to slag off France, as the City A.M financial newspaper did similar earlier in the year when its editor branded their economy a "failed socialist experiment".

In response, the French embassy issued a rebuttal titled "10 accounts on which City A.M. has got it wrong on France", dismissing his "ideological mix of prejudice and error” and mocking the National Health Service as “ailing” and suffering from ”years of under-investment”.

However, Tory MPs hit back hard, with some even ridiculing Hollande for his rumoured affair with actress Julie Gayet. Tory MP Brooks Newmark - now somewhat ironically - told HuffPostUK: "Francois Hollande seems to manage his country's financial affairs as well as his personal affairs."

The French premier also used his visit today to meet Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron acknowledged that he was from "different political families" to the French premier, but he said the two countries faced the same challenges.

Cameron said: "I'm sure we will have a lot to talk about on the economy, where the bilateral relationship is very strong, we both have the same challenges of getting our economies to grow and generate jobs and wealth.

"While we are from different political families, I'm sure there is a lot that we can share in terms of experience about what needs to happen."

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