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Brexit: UK can't be in Single Market without freedom of movement, says Francois Hollande

By Sam Lister and Shaun Connolly

Published 21/07/2016

Prime Minister Theresa May holds a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace, Paris after they had a bilateral meeting. PA
Prime Minister Theresa May holds a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace, Paris after they had a bilateral meeting. PA

Francois Hollande has warned that Britain will not remain in the Single Market unless it accepts freedom of movement following talks with Theresa May in Paris.

The French president said the thorny issue of EU migration will be the "most crucial point" of the UK's negotiations to leave the bloc, but indicated he will not agree to major concessions.

After talks at the Elysee Palace, the Prime Minister insisted the Government will deliver on voters' demands for "some controls" on movement between countries.

Discussions continued over a dinner of lobster, veal and vanilla mousse.

Mr Hollande urged Britain not to delay triggering the Article 50 process of negotiations to pull the country out of the bloc, insisting "the sooner, the better".

Asked about Britain's future in the Single Market, Mr Hollande said: "It's the most crucial point. That's the point that will be the subject of the negotiation.

"The UK today has access to the Single Market because it respects the four freedoms.

"If it wishes to remain within the Single Market it's its decision to know how far and how it will have to abide by the four freedoms.

"None can be separated from the other. There cannot be freedom of movement of goods, free movement of capital, free movement of services if there isn't a free movement of people.

"With David Cameron prior to the referendum there had been a number of limited opt outs that in no way hindered freedom of movement of people.

"It will be a choice facing the UK - remain in the Single Market and then assume the free movement that goes with it or to have another status. That will be the subject of the negotiation."

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Mrs May said the referendum result had been a "very clear message that we should introduce some controls to the movement of individuals from the countries of the European Union into the UK".

"Obviously looking at that issue will be part of the negotiations. I'm 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 United Kingdom but for other countries within the European Union as well."

The premiers laughed off a question about whether Mr Hollande had been a "more awkward customer" than German chancellor Angela Merkel, who Mrs May met in Berlin on Wednesday.

"We have had excellence discussions, very constructive and very open," the PM said. "I look forward to working with both Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande, and I look forward to working with both in the future."

Mr Hollande said there is "no doubt" that the French people who reside in the UK will be able to continue to work there and that "British people in France will be able to continue to work there and spend as much time as they wish".

Mrs May said: "I want to be able to guarantee the rights of those EU citizens living in the UK, I expect to be able to do so, and the only situation in which that wouldn't be possible is if British citizens' rights in European member states were not being protected."

The continuation of the border agreement between France and the UK is set to continue, they said. Mr Hollande said it was "useful to both our countries".

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