France has entered uncharted political waters after the prime minister, Manuel Valls, presented his government’s resignation amid a political crisis triggered by his maverick economy minister who called for an end to austerity policies imposed by Germany.

The prime minister, a social democrat who has been compared to Tony Blair, acted with characteristic swiftness in a bid to reassert his authority. His aides had let it be known on Sunday that the economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, had crossed a “yellow line” for his dual crime of criticising both the president of France and a valued ally.

Montebourg, 51, fired his first broadside in an interview with Le Monde on Saturday and followed up with a speech to a Socialist party rally the following day. In a veiled reference to President François Hollande, he said that conformism was an enemy and “my enemy is governing”. “France is a free country which shouldn’t be aligning itself with the obsessions of the German right,” he said, urging a “just and sane resistance”.

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