France tells Britain: There’ll be no Brexit ‘beatings’ but no cherry picking either

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.

France tells Britain: There'll be no Brexit 'beatings' but no cherry picking either
Boris Johnson and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault. Photo: AFP

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. 

France has been particularly critical of the post-Brexit British government, with Finance Minister Michel Sapin saying this week it appeared to be “improvising” and had no real plan for an exit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed this week that Britain would leave Europe's single market and warned the EU against imposing harsh terms on its divorce from the bloc.

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

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The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.