Boris Johnson has compared French President Francois Hollande to a Second World War Nazi prison guard who wants to give the United Kingdom “punishment beatings” over Brexit.
Speaking in India on Wednesday morning, the foreign secretary said it would be “incredible” if the EU decided to impose trade tariffs on Britain after it has left.
“If Mr Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape, in the manner of some world war two movie, I don’t think that is the way forward,” Johnson said.
A spokeswoman for Theresa May attempted to downplay the comment. “He was making a theatrical comparison to some of those evocative WWII movies,” she said.
Universities minister Jo Johnson, the foreign secretary’s brother said Boris was “using colourful language to get across an important point”.
But a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: “We’re well aware the Foreign Secretary has a habit of making wild and inappropriate comments and talking about World War Two in that context is another one of those.”
And Labour MP David Lammy said: “Seriously? This is diplomacy? This is trying to get a good deal? Boris is an embarrassment. Walking disaster zone.”
Yesterday Theresa May set out her plan for the UK to leave the single market in what has been seen as a so-called hard Brexit.
Less than 24-hours before Johnson invoked the Second World War, the prime minister issued a warning to her ministers to “maintain our discipline” as the talks progressed.
“Every stray word and every hyped up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain,” she said.
“Our opposite numbers in the European Commission know it, which is why they are keeping their discipline. And the ministers in this Government know it too, which is why we will also maintain ours.”
It is not the first time Johnson has made a Nazi comparison when speaking about the EU.
During the referendum campaign, he suggested Brussels was attempting to control Europe in the same way Hitler did.
Labour warned the PM was on course to turn Britain into “bargain basement economy” while the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator insisted the days of Britain cherry-picking its relationship with Brussels were over.
David Davis today confirmed that while parliament will have a vote on the final Brexit deal - MPs and peers will not be able to prevent the UK leaving the EU.
The Brexit secretary made clear this morning that parliament will have a choice between voting for the Brexit deal struck by May or voting for Brexit with no deal at all.
In the long-awaited speech, May said she was “confident” a trade deal and a new strategic partnership between the UK and the EU can be achieved within the two-year deadline set out in Article 50, insisting a good deal for Britain will also be good for Europe.
She warned: “I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path.
“That would be an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe. And it would not be the act of a friend.”
May confirmed she wants to take Britain out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and restore control over immigration.
She gave her strongest hint yet that the UK could leave the European customs union (CU), stating she wanted to ensure “frictionless” cross-border trade.
But she said she had an “open mind” on whether that should be done through associate membership or a completely new customs agreement.
Declaring “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain”, May repeated Chancellor Philip Hammond’s warning that if Europe is refused easy access to the single market, the UK could “change the basis of (its) economic model”.
That could mean Britain effectively becoming a low-tax, low-regulation haven like Singapore off the shore of Europe, competing for business and investment with its former partners.
European Council president Donald Tusk said the remaining 27 members were “united and ready to negotiate” while the European parliament’s chief negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the “days of UK cherry-picking and Europe a la carte are over”.