THE French President has been told his socialist tax plans may have helped Newcastle United secure its newest signings.
The possibility that manager Alan Pardew should be thanking Francois Hollande emerged yesterday as one North East MEP listened to the president address the European Parliament.
Newcastle United made five French signings in the January transfer window, all of them from the French Ligue 1 – Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko.
But in the European Parliament yesterday Mr Hollande was told it might not be just the chance to play in the Premier League that helped entice over Newcastle’s newest players.
North East Conservative MEP Martin Callanan told Mr Hollande that his socialist policies were driving away Frenchmen from their native land.
Speaking as leader of the Conservative group of MEPs, Mr Callanan said a 75% tax rate was a damaging policy in any country.
He said: “I’m a fan of Newcastle United, and I’m delighted to tell you we have just signed five new fantastic French players last month.
“I don’t know whether your new 75% tax rate had anything to do with their enthusiasm to leave France and come to Newcastle but, if it did, can I say on behalf of all Toon fans – Merci Beaucoup Monsieur Le Presidente.”
He added: “I want to convey a simple message: thank you. Thank you for brilliantly demonstrating to the rest of Europe what a Socialist government looks like in practice.
“One that gets elected on an ‘end to austerity’ and is then mugged by economic reality into introducing harsh budget cuts.
“When the Socialists left power in my country, they left a note in our country’s Treasury saying, ‘I’m afraid there is no money left’. Last week your Labour Minister admitted that France is bankrupt.
“Let’s be clear, things aren’t in great shape in other countries either, but since you have come to power, we have seen how devastating socialism can be, even to a country as well-placed and talented as France.”
Mr Hollande decided not to discuss his possible role as Newcastle United’s best signing agent when responding to Mr Callanan, instead defending his handling of the French economy.
Newcastle United’s French legion have already showed signs of settling in well to their new team, with the new players playing the lead role in United’s 3-2 victory over Chelsea last Saturday.
Sissoko was one of four Frenchmen in the United starting line-up, scoring two goals, while another two came on as substitutes.
And fans showed their appreciation of the new players by waving tricolore flags, sporting berets and stripy tops, and even wearing strings of onions around their necks.
Fans’ pub The Strawberry, which stands in the shadow of St James’ Park, has even re-named itself La Fraise in honour of United’s French revolution.