It is an axiom of British self-esteem that France should always be slightly behind the UK in everything that it does, whether it be in sport, race relations, international influence, military prowess or, if at all possible, the economy.

Right now, however, it is the French economy that is pulling ahead. The CAC 40, France’s truncated equivalent of the Footsie 100, last week posted an aggregate increase in pre-tax profit for its members of 13 per cent for the first six months of this year on turnover up 7.4 per cent. Combined, the country’s grandes enterprises saw first-half net profits hit a record €89 billion.