François Hollande becomes second major leader to reject key part of Article 50 letter

Posted On: 
30th March 2017

François Hollande has become the second European leader to land a major blow to Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating plans.

Theresa May and Francois Hollande share a press conference last July
PA Images

The French president said thrashing out the terms of Britain’s divorce from the EU must be settled before any talks on future relations between the parties.

His comments echo those of German chancellor Angela Merkel, who last night said negotiations "must first clarify how we will disentangle our inter-linked relationship".

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The interventions come after Mrs May's Article 50 letter was delivered to European Council president Donald Tusk in Brussels, kick-starting two years of exit talks.

Mr Hollande and Ms Merkel's comments are in line with a resolution from the European Parliament leaked yesterday, which suggested the hard line the bloc will be taking in negotiations.

In a phone call Mr Hollande backed Mr Tusk’s timetable, telling Ms May talks must be held in a “clear and constructive manner, so as to lift uncertainties and to fully respect the rules and interests of the 27-member European Union".

In a statement, a spokesperson from Élysée Palace said: "The president indicated that the talks must at first be about the terms of withdrawal, dealing especially with citizens' rights and obligations resulting from the commitments made by the United Kingdom."

It added: "On the basis of the progress made, we could open discussions on the framework of future relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union."

Mrs Merkel said yesterday: “The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship.

“And only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship.”

But a Downing Street spokesperson said: "You would expect people to take robust positions at the beginning - let's see where we end up."