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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 23:36 GMT 00:36 UK

UK Politics

Blair practises football diplomacy with France

The leaders of Britain and France share a pint

The UK prime minister and his French counterpart, Lionel Jospin, have announced an exchange scheme for children from across the Channel to watch football in Britain.

BBC Political Correspondent Carolyn Quinn: Meeting was "a success in presentational terms"
The news came on the second day of Mr Jospin's visit to Britain which the two leaders spent in Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency in County Durham.

Mr Blair said the scheme would allow youth teams from French cities to visit some of the main clubs.

He added that he would be "delighted" to see them as well.

The BBC's Khalid Javed: "It was handshakes and smiles all round"
The UK's role in Europe has been the focus of the visit, which follows Mr Blair's brief stay some months ago in Mr Jospin's constituency.

It comes hard on the heels of the French prime minister's address to a UK foreign policy think tank in which he said socialists in his country "say yes to market economy but no to market society".

Setting out his left-wing vision as different to Mr Blair's "third way", Mr Jospin defended his country's tradition of state intervention.

[ image: Aerospace: Mr Jospin called for co-operation]
Aerospace: Mr Jospin called for co-operation
Earlier on Thursday he called for France, the UK and Germany to combine their main aerospace industries to rival the US dominance in the market.

Echoing Mr Blair's call for left-wing parties to recognise social and economic change, including globalisation, Mr Jospin told the Foreign Policy Centre he defended French "volontarisme" - or "proactive policy" - against the UK prime minister's support for free-market flexibility.

It comes a year after Mr Blair told the French National Assembly the British Labour Party's radical rethink of policy was leading European socialists away from traditions favoured across the Channel.

Mr Jospin told the audience, which included Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Bank of England Governor Eddie George, the UK and France were no longer competing like they used to.

In many fields "your victories are no longer our defeats", he said.

But he added: "Tony Blair has rightly said that what counts is what works.

[ image: Lionel Jospin opposes Mr Blair's free-market philosophy]
Lionel Jospin opposes Mr Blair's free-market philosophy
"In France, volontarisme works. I am convinced even today that nation-states are obliged to exercise more volontarisme."

Mr Jospin called for greater equality through social justice.

"I reject an aid-dependent society. I am for a work society.

"Supple, inventive, driver of markets, capitalism simultaneously creates unprecedented wealth and inequality.

"That is reality. Since I want to dominate this reality and make it more equitable, I remain a socialist."

Mr Jospin signalled his continued support for the European single currency but warned against using the currency to begin moving power away from member states.

"There can be no question of challenging the right of each state to pursue its own autonomous social policies," he said.

"For my part I hope Great Britain will play its full role in Europe."

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24 Jul 98 | The Economy
Economic policy 'vital for future'

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