Differences were widening last night over a €200bn European Commission economic recovery plan, with France and the UK eager to see a big, co-ordinated stimulus package but Germany more critical of such reflationary measures.

A paper by the French presidency of the European Union, to be discussed at today’s EU finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels, was similar in content and tone to the Commission’s plan, with some passages apparently lifted directly from the proposal published last week, EU officials said.

In contrast, Germany remained sceptical, with Angela Merkel, chancellor, yesterday ruling out significant tax cuts and Peer Steinbrück, finance minister, at the weekend likening countries that are ready to adopt large-scale deficit spending programmes to “lemmings” hurrying down the path to mass suicide.

The Brussels meeting will debate how EU countries haul their economies out of recession, ahead of a summit next week of EU heads of state and government that is set to approve the Commission proposals, if in modified form.

Financial Times.