By Jonathan Davies

The boss of John Lewis has apologised after launching a scathing attack on France.

Andy Street described the country as "hopeless and downbeat". John Lewis said the comments were made tongue-in-cheek and shouldn't be taken seriously.

Mr Street's comment came at a dinner after his Eurostar train had been delayed.

According to The Times, the John Lewis boss said: "You get on Eurostar from something I can only describe as the squalor pit of Europe, Gare du Nord, and you get off at a modern, forward-looking station (St Pancras)."

Mr Street was being given an award by the World Retail Congress when he made the comments. He said the award was "made of plastic and is frankly revolting."

"If I needed any further evidence of a country in decline, here it is. Every time I (see it), I shall think, God help France," he continued at the technology award dinner.

"If you've got investments in French businesses, get them out quickly," he said.

Mr Street did issue an apology on Friday. He said: "The remarks I made were supposed to be lighthearted views, and tongue in cheek.

"On reflection I clearly went too far. I regret the comments, and apologise unreservedly".

The French embassy in London said: "Obviously many foreign businesses do not seem to share Mr Street's view."

France is the world's fifth largest foreign investment market, with €1.1 trillion ($1.1tn; £933bn).

The embassy said: "Everyone who has lived in France knows that it enjoys world-class public services. Public transport, for example, is excellent, and at a price that Mr Street is unlikely to find in many countries.

"People working in France enjoy one of the best healthcare systems in the world. And ultimately, workers' average productivity is higher in France than in many other developed countries.

"Mr Street can rest assured that the French government really cares about business! France is the fifth biggest economy in the world, the second in Europe. It would be senseless for any major international business to overlook such a market."

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