“And I wished we could imitate the ease and ruthlessness with which the French send high speed trains streaking across the landscape.
“And as the light bulbs of Britain flicker, I am lost in admiration for the historic French decision to build enough nuclear reactors to supply 75 per cent of your power needs, and in the next 30 years we in Britain will now try to catch up while French companies raise the capital for even more ambitious investments.”
Mr Johnson also used his speech to defend the City of London from European Union interference.
He said the whole of Europe would suffer if “ill thought-out” measures such as the bankers’ bonus cap were imposed on the UK.
Britain was earlier this month defeated after being outnumbered 26 to one over the controversial EU proposals to impose caps on bonuses paid to bankers.
Under the new rules annual bonuses will not be allowed to exceed a banker’s salary, starting next year.
Bonuses of twice annual salary will be allowed if shareholders approve them. Experts have warned that the decision will damage the City.
Mr Johnson said the Government should “paralyse” the negotiations and not “give in” to Brussels over the issue.
“If the French government was faced with something like the bonus cap they would not tolerate it,” he said. “They would paralyse negotiations and refuse to have further discussion until they got an agreement. That’s what I think we should do, not give in.”
Mr Johnson added: “I hope you will agree London is an asset for France, and an asset for Europe and that it makes no sense for us to attack the Continent’s number one financial centre with bonus caps or any other ill thought-out measure.
“Those bankers will not vanish to France or to Frankfurt. They will go to Singapore or Hong Kong or New York and we will be senselessly degrading one of the EU’s greatest commercial assets.
“In picking on London I am afraid such measures risk inflaming sentiment in the UK where the arguments for and against membership are more finely balanced…Whatever these measures are meant to achieve they will do nothing to solve the problems of the eurozone.”