Freedom of movement 'on the table' for Brexit talks - French minister


Freedom of movement will be "on the table" when Britain comes to negotiate its exit from the European Union, a senior French minister has said.

Finance minister Michel Sapin insisted there was no mood to "punish" the UK following the outcome of the referendum result last week.

In an interview with BBC2's Newsnight, he said there was concern that the UK would face "real difficulties" outside the EU and it was important not to "amplify" them.

He said the negotiations on the terms of Britain's post-Brexit arrangements with the bloc would begin with a "clean slate", with the onus on the Government to come forward with proposals.

His comments are likely to be welcomed by Leave campaigners like Boris Johnson, who insist that any new settlement must allow Britain to control the flow of migration from the EU.

"I think Britain will encounter real difficulties and we don't need to amplify them. On the contrary we need to help resolve them," Mr Sapin said.

"When we negotiate with a country, a third party - Norway, Switzerland, to take countries that are very close - we discuss all subjects; under what conditions there is freedom of movement of people, freedom of movement of goods, freedom of movement of capital.

"That is something that is very important for the UK with all the questions about financial services, so we discuss everything.

"Everything will be on the table because Britain will make the proposals and we will negotiate on these aspects with a desire to come to an agreement. But we are not there yet until we have an official decision from the UK."

He added: "Britain won't be in the same position as before. Things will change. Things have already changed. We return to zero, as we say in French - a clean slate."

Following his return on Wednesday from what is expected to be his final Brussels summit after announcing his intention to resign in the wake of the referendum defeat, David Cameron told MPs that the UK was facing a "difficult" time ahead.

"There are going to be some very choppy waters ahead," he said. "I don't resile from any of the warnings I made during the referendum campaign, but we have got to work through this."

He said that the mood among other EU leaders had been one of "sadness and regret" and he issued a pointed warning to Leave campaigners like Mr Johnson who is hoping to replace him, that a new deal would require trade-offs.

"Many European partners were clear that it is impossible to have all the benefits of membership without some of the costs of membership," he said.

"That's something the new prime minister and cabinet will have to think about very carefully."