Start Brexit negotiations as soon as possible: Hollande urges Britain

may-hollande-afp French President Francois Hollande welcomes British Prime Minister Theresa May upon her arrival on July 21, 2016 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris | AFP

French President Francois Hollande on Friday said he respects Britain's decision to leave the EU and urged the country to begin Brexit negotiations as soon as possible.

He met British Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris and said he recognised the new government needed time to prepare but stressed: "The sooner the better."

He thanked May for her "message of solidarity" in the wake of the terrorist attack in Nice, BBC reported.

May said she wanted to "maximise opportunities" for Britain and the EU.

"The United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union and we respect that decision. We would like to be reflected in the best possible timescale to open a negotiation to establish what will be the relationship between the UK and Europe," he said.

"For France, the sooner the better. There cannot be discussions or pre-negotiations before the negotiations, but we can of course prepare these negotiations and we can understand that your government, that's just been formed, needs this time," Hollande added.

He said uncertainty was the greatest danger and also repeated France's argument that Britain could only get access to the single market if it accepted the free movement of people.

"It will be a choice facing the UKā€”remain in the single market and then assume the free movement that goes with it or to have another status. That will be the subject of the negotiation," the French President noted.

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