France has no intention of "punishing" Britain over Brexit, the French foreign minister said Thursday in response to comments from his British counterpart Boris Johnson, but Paris will not let London cherry pick the parts of the EU either. Johnson said Wednesday he feared French President Francois Hollande wanted to inflict "World War II-style punishment beatings" on Britain, comparing proposed trade tariffs to punishments meted out to prisoners who tried to escape in World War II movies.
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Johnson's claim was an attempt to divert attention from the potential consequences of leaving the European Union. "This is not about 'punishing' the United Kingdom, that is not France's stance," Ayrault told reporters. Johnson's statement was a "smokescreen to allow those who supported Brexit to play down the impact on people, because they can clearly see the negative consequences", Ayrault added.
Ayrault did warn the UK however that there would be no "cherry picking" over details in forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
According to British media reports, Johnson's comments were in response to one of Hollande's advisers saying the French president would not be prepared to give Britain a better deal outside the single market than in it.
"If Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape, rather in the manner of some World War II movie, then I don't think that that is the way forward and I don't think it's in the interests of our friends and partners," he said while attending a conference in New Delhi, India.
Johnson's comments were widely understood to be drawing a parallel between the film "The Great Escape," in which British prisoners of war plan an elaborate escape from an apparently impenetrable Nazi prison camp, and Britain's "escape" from the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Tuesday that Britain would leave the single market and said she doubted the EU would make an example of Britain by making a deal which would harm both the European and British economies.
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