Tony Barber

Like anyone familiar with the French definition of budgetary discipline, I didn’t spill my coffee in shock on Wednesday morning when Michel Sapin, finance minister, disclosed that France wouldn’t bring its public finances in line with EU-set targets until 2017 – two years later than previously agreed.

From the day of the euro’s launch in January 1999, it’s never been any different in Paris. No grande nation worth its salt would balance its budget on the orders of some bumptious bureaucratic bean-counter in Brussels. Read more

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By Gideon Rachman
At the beginning of the year, I gave a talk about “geopolitical risk” to a big conference of investors. I trotted briskly around the course: Russia, the Middle East, the South China Sea, the eurozone. Afterwards, I was having coffee with one of the other speakers, a celebrated private-equity investor, and asked him how much he thought about geopolitical risk.

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Tony Barber

In his 2011 book ‘Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe’, the historian Norman Davies writes: “That the United Kingdom will collapse is a foregone conclusion. Sooner or later, all states do collapse… Only the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ are mysteries of the future.”

A ‘Yes’ vote in Scotland’s September 18 referendum is a distinct possibility. According to Peter Kellner, one of Britain’s foremost opinion poll experts, the pro-independence forces were, by the start of this month, gaining about four votes for every one lost, whilst the unionists were losing about two supporters for every one they were winning. Read more

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Gideon Rachman

For the past twenty years, I’ve spent every summer in the same village in South-West France. It is a beautiful place which would be a candidate to be a World Heritage Site in many other countries – but is just another rural village in France. The village (which I won’t name, to avoid embarrassing anyone) has also always seemed blessedly immune to the world’s troubles. You could sit in the local cafe and read all about the problems in the wider economy, or political turmoil in Paris - but it all seemed rather abstract, and a long way away.

This year, however, the mood had changed. The economic, social and political problems afflicting the country seemed all too real – even in la France profonde. Read more

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Emily Cadman

The European Central Bank has cut interest rates to a record low, in a fresh attempt to counter the threat of economic stagnation across the eurozone.

The governing council cut its benchmark main refinancing rate from 0.15 per cent to 0.05 per cent and said it would charge lenders 0.2 per cent, up from 0.1 per cent, for their deposits parked at the central bank. Mario Draghi’s press conference is now over.

By Ralph Atkins and Emily Cadman