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.