As Britain prepared to leave the European Union at 11pm on Thursday, the 80-year-old former diplomat said he had applied for French citizenship.
“It is not a question of becoming French. If I understood correctly, I am French. My mother was born in France, her mother was entirely French and her grandmother too. So for me it is a matter of reclaiming what I already have.”
“I will always be a European, that's for sure. One cannot tell the British people: you are not Europeans. Having a tie with the European Union is important,” he added.
Borish Johnson, who led the Leave campaign which won the 2016 referendum, signed the Brexit agreement on Wednesday.
Across parts of Europe, there was dismay that Britain was departing the EU and concern about the future for the bloc.
‘Brexit: The End’ thundered the front page headline in the French left-wing daily Libération.
A large picture of the Queen appearing to turn her back on the continent adorned the front page, even though the image dates from her visit to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin 2015.
Four and a half years after the referendum, the UK turns its back definitively on the EU, the newspaper told readers.
Over seven pages inside, the paper reminded readers that from January 1 relations between Britain and the EU will change and it questions what this will mean for the future of the EU.
Passports, immigration, Erasmus and Gibraltar, plus the fate of French citizens living in Britain will not be the same again, it adds.
The French newspaper Le Figaro ran a front page headline with one word: ‘Goodbye!’ Above a photograph of Boris Johnson.
Tortuous negotiations dragging over more than four years were not the result of the EU trying to punish Britain for leaving the bloc, said Clement Beaune, French European Affairs minister.
“With Brexit, Britain is punishing itself,” Mr Beaune told France's LCI television. “We were not trying to punish it.”
“This day will be historic but it will be a sad day because, when a country leaves the EU for the first time in 45 years of living together, it is sad.”
Elsewhere in Europe, Brexit was eclipsed by the COVID-19 pandemic or hopes for a better future in 2021.
In Spain, the front pages of many newspapers have one simple message: Better New Year, which was sponsored by a Spanish telecoms group.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies