Theresa May and Francois Hollande have agreed to retain UK border controls in Calais, despite the latter repeating his demands for Brexit talks to begin “as soon as possible”.
In the build up to the referendum, French politicians had called for the Le Touquet agreement, which allows the UK to maintain border checks in France, to be renegotiated after a Brexit vote, but Hollande has now agreed to retain the deal.
Standing alongside May at a joint press conference in Paris, he said: “We consider it as our duty...to apply it and also to improve it”.
However, Hollande also called for the UK to take the “best possible timescale to open negotiations” to minimise uncertainty and the potential impact on jobs within the Eurozone.
“The sooner the better,” Hollande said.
Responding, May cautioned that preparations would take time, and hinted the UK could begin formal talks soon after January 2017.
“I hope that we can all make the most of the next six months to prepare for these discussions in a constructive way,” she said.
Hollande's comments show a marked shift in tone yesterday, when German chancellor Angela Merkel suggested the UK should “carefully prepare” its plans before launching negotiations.
Once May activates the EU's Article 50 legislation, the UK has two years to negotiate a new relationship with the EU.
The French President also argued against the UK gaining single market access if May suceeds in installing new barriers against European immigration.
“The UK today has access to the single market because it respects the four freedoms,” Hollande said.
“There cannot be freedom of movement of goods, freedom of capital, freedom of services if there isn't a free movement of people.”