As business leaders in France are warning of an exodus of the country's top-flight taxpayers to London and other foreign capitals if Ségolène Royal is elected president in May.......

Pop star prefers the 'British way of life'
By Henry Samuel in Paris

The French, still struggling to come to terms with the flight of Johnny Hallyday to Switzerland for tax reasons, learned yesterday that another Gallic pop icon is to leave the country, this time for London because he prefers British life.

Renaud, 54, a staunch Left-winger, once sung that if he were a dog "I'd use Margaret Thatcher as my daily lamppost".

But he has clearly buried the hatchet, as he told Paris-Match magazine that he and his wife Romane "love the cultural life, the civility of the English, their humour".

"I love the pubs, I love the football, I love the rock music, the culture, the literature, the galleries, the exhibitions, the architecture. There are no cops on the streets of London. Why? Because people are more civilised and more fraternal than in Paris," he said.

The singer, whose full name is Renaud Séchan, said that he had bought a small house in London and planned to put his baby son Malone through the English school system "so that he can speak English fluently from a young age".

A pub, a church, Tudor housing, no dog mess on the streets - what more could you want?

However, unlike Hallyday, he does not intend to be a tax exile.

"Even if I could pay my taxes in Britain I would not do it. It is in France that I get 80 per cent of my income... I will continue to pay my taxes there, even if I am sorry they go towards new nuclear aircraft-carriers rather than creches and schools," he said.

France's onerous wealth tax has become a hot topic ahead of April's presidential election, after Hallyday announced late last year that he was relocating to a Swiss ski resort.

Tired of being "fleeced" by the French taxman, Hallyday expects to be made a Belgian national by the end of the month, a move that will allow him to get round rules forbidding French people from becoming tax residents in Monaco.

He sparked furious debate after promising to return to France if Nicolas Sarkozy, the right-wing presidential frontrunner, was elected in May.

But in clear reference to Hallyday, Renaud yesterday condemned as "indecent [those] millionaire artists who dare complain about tax."

Renaud, who once wrote an ode to former Socialist president François Mitterrand, has said he will vote for the current Socialist candidate, Ségolène in the second round or elections. He vehemently opposes Nicolas Sarkozy, whom he recently described as a miniature version of far-right Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

With a string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s, often with gritty social and political themes, Renaud more recently played miner's strike leader Etienne Lantier in a film version of Emile Zola's Germinal.

His 1985 song "Miss Maggie" put all women on a pedestal, bar one: every verse ended "Apart from Madame Thatcher".