G20 finance ministers discuss "exit strategies"

France and Germany push for agreement to scale back economic support

Finance ministers from the G20 will meet in London today to discuss possible exit strategies from the economic measures of the past year.

France and Germany, whose economies have returned to growth, are keen to scale back support but the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, will argue that is too early to end fiscal stimulus

Speaking last night, he said: "I believe we can be confident about our prospects for 2010. But there are still uncertainties and risks that we have to confront".

He added: "And the biggest risk is to think that the job's done -- that recovery is guaranteed. No country can be complacent -- we've got to see this through."

But under pressure from other European leaders, Gordon Brown was belatedly forced to concede that "exit strategies" needed to be discussed "to avoid laying the foundations of new global imbalances in the longer run".

The finance ministers are meeting in advance of the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh later this month. They are also expected to discuss measures to curb excessive bank bonuses.

A letter signed by Brown, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, criticised the "reprehensible" return of inflated bonuses.

But divisions are expected to emerge during the summit with Brown strongly opposed to a French plan to introduce mandatory caps on bonuses.

The shadow chancellor, George Osborne argued that Britain needed to withdraw from large economic support in order to deal with the growing budget deficit.

"While the rest of the world is facing up to the need to deal with their budget deficits, the British Government is still in complete denial, despite having the largest deficit of all," he said.