British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has likened any attempt to punish Britain for leaving the European Union to a World War 2 escape movie.
Johnson spoke on Wednesday in New Delhi, a day after Prime Minister Theresa May laid out the case for a “hard Brexit”, in which Britain leaves the European single market.
According to the secretary, attempts to curb free trade cut both ways.
He was answering a question on comments made earlier by an aide to French President Francois Hollande who said Britain should not expect a better trading relationship with Europe once it was out.
“If Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings that anyone chooses to escape, rather in the manner of some World War 2 movie, then I don’t think that’s the way forward,” Johnson answered.
“It’s not in the interests of our friends or our partners.”
Johnson’s comments to the Raisina Dialogue, a geopolitical conference hosted by the Indian foreign ministry and the Observer Research Foundation, will be scrutinized back home to see whether he is straying from May’s message.
In his prepared remarks Johnson – a leading face of the successful campaign to vote “leave” in a referendum last June – said Britain should embrace free trade not only with Europe but with the wider world.
“We want to be outside the cathedral but support it like a flying buttress,” Johnson said,
He added that he had been mistranslated when he had made the same remark in an earlier speech to say Britain wanted to be a “flying bucket”.
Joking apart, the maverick Euroscentric, who pulled out of the race to succeed Premier David Cameron to clear the way for May, made several points underlining Britain’s commitment to be a strong partner in Europe.
Britain believed in multilateral cooperation, while the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was the “cornerstone of our defense,” he said.