UK accord on EU workers 'crucial', France says
By Eric Maurice
French president Francois Hollande said on Thursday (21 July) that freedom of movement for EU citizens in the UK would be the "most crucial point" in future exit negotiations.
Until now, the UK has had access to the single market "because it respects the four freedoms" of movement for goods, capital, services and people, he said after meeting new British prime minister Theresa May in Paris.
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None of these freedoms "can be separated from the others," he warned, adding that it would be the UK's decision "to know how far and how it has to abide to the four freedoms".
May said that the message British people sent by voting for Brexit was that "we should introduce some controls to the movement of individuals" coming from EU countries.
"I'm clear that the government should deliver and will deliver,” she said. "But we also want the right deal on the trade in goods and services."
The two leaders met in Paris a day after May spoke with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Hollande said that he was ready to give Britain time to prepare EU exit negotiations but that talks should start as soon as possible.
"We can understand that your government needs time," he told May.
He added that negotiations should respect the interests of the UK and the EU and should start soon.
"The sooner, the better," he said, adding that uncertainty was "the greatest danger" for Europe's economic stability.
His remarks on timing came after Merkel said on Wednesday that she found "absolutely understandable that there is a certain amount of time needed".
May said in Paris that she understood "the need for certainty and confidence in the markets" but that she had been clear that article 50, the EU exit procedure, would not be invoked before the end of the year.
'Calm and orderly'
"It will take time to prepare for those negotiations," she said.
"I hope that we can all make the most of the next six months to prepare for these discussions in a constructive way so that we maximise the opportunities for both the UK and the EU," she said.
She added that is was "sensible to ensure that negotiations are done in as a calm, orderly and constructive manner as possible".
The British and French leaders also focused on issues that are specific to the UK-France relationship.
France and the UK are Europe's only permanent members of the UN security council and only nuclear powers. They also have close military cooperation.
The French president said that even after the UK left the EU, both countries would have "the duty to ensure Europe's security and carry its values in the world”.
The British PM said that the two countries would "strengthen the wider strategic defence partnership", including a €2 billion programme for "the most advanced combat air system anywhere in Europe".
Migrants in Calais
The two leaders also assured that Brexit would not change the way France and Britain cooperate in Calais to control migration to the UK.
"We are very clear that Le Touquet should stay," said May, referring to a 2003 agreement that allows British authorities to check entries to the UK on French territory, before people cross the Channel on boats or through the tunnel.
Ahead of the EU referendum in the UK, several French officials including economy minister Emmanuel Macron had suggested that the agreement would be scrapped in case of Brexit.
The mayor of Calais told EUobserver earlier this month that France "should review the conditions of the border accord".
May said in Paris that the accord was "of benefit to both countries" while Hollande said it included "reciprocal obligations".
France and the UK "will continue together" to control migration and deal with people in Calais, Hollande said.