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France: We’re not a failed socialist experiment

A war of words has broken out between the French Embassy in London and a U.K. newspaper, after it ran an article accusing the Fifth Republic of being a "failed socialist experiment".

Allister Heath, the editor of City A.M., penned a comment piece that read: "France's economic sickness is primarily due to its overbearing state, horrendously high tax levels, insane regulations, absurd levels of inefficient public spending and generalized hatred of commerce, capitalism, success and hard work."

Heath pointed towards the disappointing composite purchasing managers' index (PMI) data from France, which fell from 48.0 in November to 47.3 in December. In comparison, Heath argued, Spain was recovering, Germany was becoming stronger and Ireland was "buoyant."

(Read more: Euro zone manufacturing grows; France stumbles on)

In response, London's French Embassy released an online response entitled "10 accounts on which City A.M. has got it wrong on France," which also doubled up as an attack on the U.K.'s own economic record. The note described Heath's article as a mix of "prejudice and error."

While Heath argued that France's economy was shrinking at an accelerated rate, the Embassy note countered that the European Commission's growth forecast for the Republic stood at 0.2 percent for 2013 and 0.9 percent for 2014, with real gross domestic product (GDP) expecting to reach 1.5 percent by 2015.

Furthermore, Heath was critical of France's tax rate, highlighting President Francois Hollande's 75 percent top tax rate, which he said would have no positive economic effects.

(Read more: The real problem with France's 75% tax)

UK Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and French President Francois HollandeMatt Cardy | Getty Images

The Embassy wrote that "the French tax system is fundamentally more redistributive" than its British counterpart, as well as arguing that "a tax rate of 40 percent applies in the U.K. as soon as income reaches £32,011, whilst in France people benefit from a 30 percent tax rate until income reaches 71,397 euros (around £59,000)."

Entente discordiale?

The British and the French have often clashed over their cultures, despite now being intimately connected thanks to the European Union and the Channel Tunnel.

In Linda Colley's celebrated book, "Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837," the author stated that one of the things that has unified Britons over the past few centuries, and given them a sense of identity, is as a direct rival to the French, through the Napoleonic Wars and beyond.

This is not the first time France has come under the scrutiny of the foreign press. In 2012, the French government mounted a spirited attack on The Economistmagazine, which called the country "time-bomb at the heart of Europe."

(Read more: Could 2014 be the year France reforms for real?)

In political terms, Hollande's Socialist Party is markedly different in tone to Prime Minister David Cameron's pro-austerity Conservative Party, and the Embassy note attacked the policies of the U.K. government regarding the National Health Service and the inefficiencies of the public sector.

"Years of under-investment forced the Blair government to allocate large sums of money to the NHS, and the current government has had to ring-fence funding for this ailing institution," it read.

"Despite all of this, difficulties remain; the Mid-Staffordshire, Morecambe Bay and Colchester scandals illustrate just how widespread problems in the NHS are," the embassy added, referring recent cases of criminal neglect of patients by NHS staff .

"The French system, by comparison, which is also almost entirely free of charge, came top of 191 countries in the World Health Organization's rankings for overall healthcare."

With the Embassy concluding that Hollande was pushing through a series of reforms that showed the country had "serious, sustainable and socially fair policies," Heath said he remained "unswayed" by the response to his arguments:


—By CNBC's Kiran Moodley. Follow him on Twitter @kirancmoodley


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