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Europe

France slams UK tax-cut plan as Hollande plans post-Brexit EU tour

media The European flag in front of the British parliament Reuters/Paul Hackett

France's finance minister on Monday slammed a British plan to slash corporation taxes to keep businesses in the UK after Brexit and President François Hollande announced he would embark on a mini-tour of five European countries to revive confidence in the European Union.

"You don't get out of a problem you've got yourself into by making announcements like this," French Finance Minister Michel Sapin commented on British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's statement last week that he would cut the UK's corporation tax rate to 15 percent.

It currently stands at 20 percent and the reduction would bring it close to Ireland's, which is 12.5 percent, and way below France's (33.3 percent) and Germany's (29.72 percent).

France courts City business

French ministers have launched a charm offensive to attract companies tempted to leave the City of London following the leave vote in the UK's recent referendum.

"By the way, I'm not at all sure that it's a good thing for Great Britain to respond to a problem of credibility and financial attractiveness by fiscal measures," Sapin warned, although he said he was in favour of France reducing its tax rate to the European average of 28 percent.

The pro-leave candidate for the leadership of Britain's ruling Conservative Party, Andrea Leadsom, pulled out of the race on Monday, leaving the way clear for Home Secretary Theresa May to succeed David Cameron as prime minister.

"Brexit means Brexit and we're going to make a success of it," May declared earlier in the day, despite having campaigned for a remain vote in the referendum.

Hollande on post-Brexit mini-tour

Hollande's office announced Monday that he would visit five EU countries next week as part of an effort to revive confidence in the EU following the blow from the British vote.

He will visit Portugal on 19 March, then go on to the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia, before finishing up in Ireland on 21 July.

Hollande intends to "give a new impetus to the Europe of 27" along the lines discussed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in a meeting they held after the British referendum result became clear.

They intend to make proposals, particularly on "defence, growth, jobs and competitivity" according to Hollande, to an EU summit in Bratislava in September.

Portugal 'doesn't deserve' sanctions

An EU ministers' meeting on Tuesday will decide whether to impose sanctions on Portugal and Spain for failing to meet targets on debt reduction.

While admitting that they would be within their rights to do so, Sapin commented that Lisbon "doesn't deserve" to be punished, since it had made "enormous efforts over the last few years" and been forced to rescue the Banif bank last December.

So far as Spain is concerned, "the problem is knowing who to discuss with and who can make commitments" following two inconclusive elections, Sapin said.

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