French president warns that UK can't keep full access to EU

2018-01-20 17:01
France's Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris. (Francois Mori, AP)

France's Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris. (Francois Mori, AP)

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London - French President Emmanuel Macron has suggested that Britain is likely to negotiate a unique relationship with the European Union before it leaves the bloc next year, while stressing that any agreement must be consistent with EU rules.

In remarks released on Saturday, Macron told the BBC's Andrew Marr television programme that Britain cannot maintain its full access to the EU's single market if it doesn't accept the bloc's founding principles, including the free movement of people and the jurisdiction of EU courts.

Full access

"This special way should be consistent with the preservation of the single market and our collective interests," he said. "And you should understand that you cannot, by definition, have the full access to the single market if you don't tick the box".

That means Britain must continue to contribute to the EU budget and accept the four freedoms guaranteed by the bloc - free movement of people, goods, services and capital - if it wants to maintain full access to the single market, Macron said. 

The comments undermine the position of some Brexit supporters who want to regain control of the UK's borders and shun the oversight of European courts while retaining access to the single market.

It will also dash the hopes of some in Britain who thought Macron might be more flexible than German Chancellor Angela Merkel in negotiating a deal.

Coveted access

Macron's influence within the EU is on the rise as Merkel's position weakens following an election in September that eroded her power base. Merkel has still not been able to cobble together a coalition government even after months of talks with other political parties.

Macron's comments echo those he made during a meeting on Thursday in which he and British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged closer cooperation on defence and border security after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. Macron said the UK's financial services industry can't keep its coveted access to the EU market unless the country continues playing by EU rules.

Read more on:    eu  |  emmanual macron  |  angela merkel  |  theresa may  |  uk  |  france  |  brexit

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