EghtesadOnline: French President Francois Hollande urged Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday to quickly come up with a negotiating stance for Britain's departure from the European Union but agreed she needed time to trigger the formal divorce.
A day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel also endorsed May's call for some breathing space to prepare for formal talks to end Britain's membership, May won acceptance from Hollande of her position not to trigger the formal exit procedure this year, Reuters reported. But the French leader, under pressure after a deadly attack in Nice and keen to dampen the popularity of Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front, was clear Britain could not put off invoking Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty for long.
"The sooner the better," Hollande told a news conference when asked when France wanted to see Britain start the at-least two-year formal procedure to quit the bloc.
"There can be no discussion or pre-negotiation ... but there may be some preparation for this negotiation. We do understand that your government, which has just been formed, needs this time, but again the sooner the better is in the common interest," the Socialist president said.
In her first foreign trips since becoming prime minister last week, May has been keen to lay the ground for what she described as "constructive" talks with the EU's two most powerful leaders as she tries to navigate the unprecedented and complex divorce talks.
With the biggest member states expected to lead the Brexit talks, May has urged France and Germany not to punish Britain and to maintain strong economic ties despite its decision to leave the EU, something she said could not be undone.
"I hope that we can all make the most of the next six months to prepare for these discussions in a constructive way so we maximize the opportunities for both the UK and the EU."