Boris Johnson warns France against WWII-style "punishment beating" over Brexit

Downing Street forced to deny he was comparing Francoise Hollande to the Nazis...

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Boris Johnson addresses supporters in Norwich, campaigning on behalf of the Vote Leave | Image: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The UK government was left cleaning up after its foreign secretary late this afternoon following another gaffe from Boris Johnson.

Speaking on Brexit, Johnson had said that it was not in the interests of French president Francois Hollande to "administer punishment beatings" in the "manner of some World War Two movie" after Hollande indicated that France would not accept better conditions for the UK outside the single market.

Downing Street has subsequently insisted that Johnson was simply making a "theatrical comparison" by comparing him to a Nazi guard.

A spokeswoman for Theresa May said the controversy was "hyped up", arguing:

"He was making a point. He was in no way suggesting that anyone was a Nazi. There is not a Government policy of not mentioning the war."

During the Brexit referendum campaign, Johnson came under fire for comparing the aims of the EU to those of Adolf Hitler.

Johnson made his comments after the British PM warned EU leaders in her key Brexit speech that offering a bad deal to punish the UK for its decision to leave the EU would be "an act of calamitous self-harm".

May said if the UK was offered a bad exit deal she would be prepared to move to a low-tax economy to make the country a more attractive place to do business than the EU.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday that, while the negotiations would be "very, very difficult", EU leaders were "not hostile" to the UK.

He said: "We want a fair deal with Britain and a fair deal for Britain, but a fair deal means a fair deal for the European Union too."

Additional reporting by IRN