- Personal warmth but few concessions in first meeting
- France and U.K. will keep their border control agreement
French President Francois Hollande told U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May that Britain faces a choice: Accept unlimited immigration from the European Union or lose access to its single market.
“There can be no free movement of goods, free movement of capital, free movement of services if there is no free movement of people,” Hollande said at a joint press conference in Paris Thursday. “It will be for the U.K. to choose: Stay in the single market and allow freedom of movement or have another status.”
May’s first venture abroad as prime minister, a week after taking the job, has been marked by personal warmth from the leaders of Germany and France but little in the way of concessions. Instead, she is beginning to get a picture of how tough the coming Brexit negotiations will be.
June’s referendum on leaving the EU “had a very clear message that we should introduce some control for the free movement of people,” she said, adding that she intended to deliver on that. “We also want to get the right deal on the trade in goods and services,” she said. “These matters will be matters for the negotiation.”
Hollande agreed, saying, “This is the most crucial point.”
On the Road
May isn’t the only EU leader on a Brexit-related diplomatic tour. Earlier in the day Hollande met Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in Dublin, where they called on Britain to begin formal exit talks quickly. Later, in May’s presence, he conceded that both sides would have to get to that point by “mutual understanding.” May repeated that the triggering of Article 50 of the EU treaty won’t come this year as her government works out its negotiating position.
British ministers have talked about delaying formal talks until they’ve had a chance to sketch a possible deal. Germany’s Angela Merkel ruled that out on Wednesday, and Hollande agreed on Thursday.
“There cannot be discussions or pre-negotiations,” he said, before offering a chink of light. “But we can of course prepare these negotiations.”
The two leaders found agreement on the 17-year-old Le Touquet bilateral agreement that means passengers and vehicles at Calais go through U.K. security and other checks on French soil before crossing the Channel. The accord also means migrants without requisite visas are blocked from traveling to the U.K. and stranded in France.
“They wish the Le Touquet agreement to stay, we wish the Le Touquet agreement to stay,” May said. Hollande described it as “useful to both our countries.”