Frisky Francois Hollande faces grilling from British press
Press conference with David Cameron likely to focus on French president's love life rather than the EU
YOU have to feel for Francois Hollande: If there's one country in the world he must want to avoid right now it's Britain. For a start, he's never seen eye to eye with David Cameron. The British PM famously declared in 2012, just weeks after Hollande had won the French presidency, that Britain would "roll out the red carpet" for those French citizens looking to escape the new president's tax rises for the rich.
But the real reason Hollande will be dreading his press conference with Cameron at Brize Norton airfield in Oxfordshire this morning, is the British press.
As the Daily Telegraph points out, it will be the "first opportunity for President Hollande to be questioned about his private life outside France". And in Britain of all places, where prurience and public life go together like bread and cheese, or scooters and helmets.
As a result, predicts the Telegraph, the first Anglo-French summit in the UK for four years will be "be overshadowed" by the French president's love life, a tangled affair that has been splashed across the world's newspapers ever since his liaison was first revealed by Closer magazine at the start of the month.
One question sure to be put to the President concerns rumours that his former squeeze, Valerie Trierweiler, is considering writing a book about her 18 months as France's first lady. According to The Times, the rumours that Trierweiler is poised to pick up her pen has "set alarm bells ringing at the Elysee Palace" because "a memoir covering the soap opera around their split could prove damaging" for the president.
Since being officially dumped last weekend, Trierweiler doesn't appear willing to slip off quietly into the sunset. First there was her high-profile charity trip to India, which some French commentators said was her 'Diana moment'.
Twenty four hours after her return from India Trierweiler gave an interview to Paris Match – the magazine for which she writes – in which she admitted to having been surprised by the revelation that Hollande, 59, had been having an affair with 41-year-old actress Julie Gayet."I heard rumours of course but you hear rumours about everyone," she told Paris Match. "I paid no attention. When I found out, it was as if I had fallen from a sky-scraper."
While such soundbites are music to the ears of the British press, they are the last thing Hollande will wish to hear today. He would rather discuss the EU, particularly in the light of comments made earlier this week by French officials.
The Prime Minister has mooted a plan to allow Britain to renegotiate its membership terms before the referendum in 2017 but on Wednesday French officials made clear they are not "prepared to accelerate EU treaty negotiations to stabilise the Eurozone" just to suit David Cameron.
Despite the divisions The Guardian says Cameron and Hollande will "put on a friendly front" and highlight the positives between the two nations, such as closer defence co-operation.
After the press conference the leaders will enjoy a "working pub lunch" in the Prime Minister's Witney constituency, although the Telegraph notes that it will just be the two of them as "there are no arrangements for wives or partners to attend".