PARIS (Alliance News) – Britain cannot have access to the single market without also respecting the other key freedoms of the EU, French President Francois Hollande said Thursday during a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris.
“If Britain wants to be part of the single market, they can do so, but they must comply with the principle of the four freedoms,” Hollande said. “There cannot be freedom of goods, circulation of goods, free movement of capital, if there is not also free movement of people.”
Hollande said freedom of movement was the most “crucial” point of negotiations that will ensue over Britain’s relationship to the EU, which will begin after Britain formally triggers the exit process. He said Britain must choose to stay in the market and allow for free circulation or “have a different status.”
But May said that one of the key messages of the British vote to leave the EU was the desire to be able to introduce controls on people entering Britain from the EU.
“I am clear that the government should deliver and will deliver on that for the British people, but we also want to get the right deal on the trade in goods and services; and I think this is important economically not just for the UK but for other countries in the EU as well,” May said.
May’s visit to Paris follows talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin during her first foreign trip as Britain’s leader. She was selected to succeed David Cameron, who stepped down after failing to convince constituents of his “Remain” position in a June 23 referendum on Britain’s EU membership.
Hollande has repeatedly called for Britain to trigger the formal exit as soon as possible to avoid uncertainty. London’s new government must invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to trigger a two-year period to negotiate Britain’s departure from the 28-member bloc.
He reiterated those calls, but added that France can understand that the newly formed British needs time to prepare for the negotiation.
“I repeat, however, that the sooner the better, in the common interest of Europe, of the UK, and of our respective economies,” Hollande said, adding that there could be no discussion before formal negotiations.
Trade between France and Britain reached EUR50 billion (USD55 billion) last year, and the two countries share a deeply intertwined cultural, political and military history. Questions about the thousands of French and British citizens living across the English Channel from their home country have also arisen in the wake of the British referendum.
But May has said repeatedly that her government would not invoke Article 50 before the end of the year; saying no change would take place immediately and likely not through the end of negotiations that are expected to take up to two years.
“I understand the need for certainty and confidence in the markets, and that’s why I have already been clear that the UK will not invoke Article 50 before the end of this year. I hope that we can all make the most of the next six months to prepare for these discussions in a constructive way,” May said.
She and Hollande added that Britain and France would continue to cooperate on issues of intelligence and security, particularly in the fight against terrorism. There were British citizens among the 84 people killed during an attack in Nice during Bastille Day celebrations last week.
“The intelligence and security cooperation between our countries is something that will always endure, even after Britain has left the EU,” May said.
She added: “Brexit means Brexit, and I firmly believe we will make a success of it, not just for the UK but for our European partners too. We will continue to work together to keep our people safe and stand up for our values around the world.”