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POLITICS

Brexit: Boris Johnson warns Hollande over WWII-style ‘punishment beatings’

Britain's foreign minister Boris Johnson evoked a troubled chapter of France's history on Wednesday as he warned France against dishing out any World War II-style "punishment beatings" because Britain decided to leave the EU.

Brexit: Boris Johnson warns Hollande over WWII-style 'punishment beatings'
Britain's foreign minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP
Boris Johnson said it would not be in anyone's interest to penalise Britain for exiting the European Union, comparing proposed trade tariffs to punishments meted out to escaped prisoners in World War II movies.
   
His comments came a day after Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Britain would leave Europe's single market and warned the EU against imposing harsh terms on its divorce from the bloc.
   
“I think that if Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape, rather in manner of some sort of World War II movie, than I don't think that is the way forward,” he told delegates at a political conference in New Delhi.
   
“I think it's actually not in the interest of our friends and our partners.”
   
May said on Tuesday that Britain would look to strike a new customs agreement with the EU, which accounted for 44 percent of the country's exports in 2015.
   
But French President Francois Hollande has consistently said Britain would not be granted better trading terms outside the single market.
   
On Wednesday, Johnson said Britain's decision to exit the single market did not mean it wanted to stop having access to EU countries.
   
“We should be working together. It seems absolutely incredible to me that in the 21st century, the European Union… should be seriously contemplating the introduction of tariffs or whatever to administer punishment to UK,” he said.
   
“And don't forget, these things cut both ways. After all, the Germans, as is well known, export one-fifth of their motor manufacturing output.”
   
The British foreign secretary is due to meet India's prime minister and finance minister during his two-day trip to the country.
  
Britain has made clear its desire to boost trade with India, the world's fastest-growing major economy.
   
“I think time is fast upon us that we need to turbo charge this relationship with a new free trade deal such as we would shortly be able to do,” Johnson said.
   
“We can't negotiate it now but we can sketch it out in pencil, on the back of an envelope,” he added.
 
Johnson's words were blasted by some British politicians. 
 
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “This is an utterly distasteful comment Boris is our chief diplomat, how can he say such things? It’s crass and he is clueless.
 
“I understand Boris loves a World War Two analogy and likens himself to Churchill. But one was the greatest ever Britain, a war leader, and the other is Boris, who goes round the world as Foreign Secretary apologising to all the nations he has offended over the years.”
   

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POLITICS

Macron rules out ‘national unity government’ for France

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised a new style of government based on 'listening and respect' - but did not announce an alliance with any other parties that would give him a majority in parliament.

Macron rules out 'national unity government' for France

Macron has been holding meetings with all other party leaders in an attempt to break the deadlock in parliament after his group lost its majority in Sunday’s elections, but in a live TV address to the nation he did not announce an alliance.

Instead he said that a new style of government was called for, saying: “The responsibility of the presidential majority is therefore to expand, either by building a coalition contract or by building majorities text by text.”

He rejected the idea of forming a “government of national unity” with all parties, saying that the present situation does not justify it.

READ ALSO Can Macron dissolve the French parliament?

But he said that opposition groups have signalled that: “They are available to advance on major topics” such as the cost of living, jobs, energy, climate and health.”

He said: “We must learn how to govern differently, by dialogue, respect, and listening

“This must mean making agreements, through dialogue, respect, and hard work. The country has made its desire for change clear.”  

Speaking for just eight minutes in the gardens of the Elysée, Macron added: “I cannot ignore the fractures and strong divisions that traverse our country.”   

He said urgent draft laws, especially to alleviate the impact of inflation and rising energy prices, would be submitted to parliament over the summer.

Macron called on the opposition parties to “clarify in all transparency, in the coming days, how far they are willing to go” in their support of such measures, which he said would not be financed by higher taxes.

He added that he himself had been re-elected in April on a platform of “ambitious reform” which he expected to carry out.

The parliamentary impasse should not lead to “stagnation”, Macron said, but to “dialogue and the willingness to listen to each other”.

Macron’s centrist group Ensemble (Together) ended Sunday’s elections as the largest group in parliament – but with 245 seats they are 44 short of an absolute majority.

The leftist coalition Nupes – an electoral alliance of the hard-left La France Insoumise, the centre-left Parti Socialiste, the Greens and the Communists – got a total of 131.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National got 89 seats and the centre-right Les Républicains got 61 seats. 

With deadlock in parliament, Macron has been holding meetings over the last two days with the party leaders in the attempt to create an alliance that will allow him to pass legislation over the next five years.

Reacting to Macron’s speech, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the leftist alliance which is the second largest group in parliament, said: “He was elected because most French people did not want the extreme right – the French people have rejected the president’s proposals.

“Nothing can change the choice of the French people.”

Macron’s position as president is not directly threatened by the lack of a majority, but it will mean that passing any legislation – which must be agreed by parliament – will be very difficult.

While negotiations between all parties will continue, Macron himself heads to Brussels on Thursday for an EU summit.

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