21 July 2016
French President Francois Hollande on Thursday said British Prime Minister Theresa May must justify any foot-dragging over the opening of formal talks to quit the European Union.
The French president also added pressure on her to launch negotiations quickly.
Hollande, due to meet May in Paris later, told a news conference during a visit to Ireland that he would hear May out but did not see an interest in putting off exit negotiations.
May has said her government is unlikely to trigger the formal divorce process until 2017 as London works out how best to tackle the complex negotiation.
Hollande said that May’s appointment on July 13 as prime minister had more quickly than expected resolved the question of who would lead the negotiations on Britain’s behalf, leaving little reason to postpone.
“First we spoke of September and then October and now December, there needs to be justifications.
“If it is to delay the negotiation, which itself could take time, I think it would create a damaging uncertainty.
“If it is to have more time for the negotiations so that the negotiations are shorter, then that can be envisaged,’’ Hollande said.
In reaction to the pressure from Hollande, a spokeswoman for May said her government needed the time to prepare the negotiations.
Hollande, who was speaking in Dublin where he and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny issued a joint statement urging rapid exit talks, also said he would confer with German leader Angela Merkel after his meeting with May.
Merkel agreed with May in Berlin on Wednesday that Britain needed time to put together a negotiating stance.
She emphasised that negotiating stance must be before triggering a formal divorce from the bloc, though the German leader was clear that no one wanted “a long period of limbo.’’