Hollande asked if Gayet affair has turned France into a 'joke'

British reporter grills French president about actress and asks if he wishes 'she was here'

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(Image credit: 2014 AFP)

THE question was inevitable, but when it came even some members of the hardened British press were taken aback.

French President Francois Hollande faced Fleet Street's finest today, his first encounter with the British press pack since revelations about his alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet came to light. The Daily Telegraph's senior political correspondent, Christopher Hope, led the charge asking: "Monsieur le President. I know this is a very sensitive subject for you. Do you think your private life has made France an international joke? Are you still having an affair with Julie Gayet? And do you wish she was here?"

Hollande's face puckered momentarily. He then said: "I'm afraid I would decline to answer."

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The contrasting attitudes of journalists in Paris and London was underlined again today at Hollande's joint press conference with David Cameron. Held in the aftermath of the UK-France summit at RAF Brize Norton, in the PM's Oxfordshire constituency, it was attended by French reporters, but they asked no questions about their president's love life.

The Conservative PM and the Socialist president did their best to emphasise the bonds between their two nations. However, it is understood they have "clashed" over the PM's push to renegotiate the UK's relationship with Brussels ahead of a referendum in 2017.

In response to a question from a journalist, Hollande made it clear that reforming the EU was simply "not a priority" for France.

There was more evidence of an entente cordiale on subjects such as nuclear power, space co-operation and defence. Cameron and Hollande announced a two year, £120m feasibility study for a new armed drone, the Future Air Combat System. They also committed to a £500m joint purchase of anti-ship missiles produced by MBDA and Finmeccanica.

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