Ireland and France call for EU Brexit process to start 'as soon as possible'

Enda Kenny and Francois Hollande Image copyright Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Image caption Enda Kenny greeted Francois Hollande as he arrived in Dublin on Thursday

French President Francois Hollande and Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny have said Britain should begin the process of leaving the EU "as soon as possible".

In a joint statement, they "looked forward to the notification as soon as possible by the new British government of the UK's intention to withdraw from the Union".

This would "permit orderly negotiations to begin".

The two men met in Dublin on Thursday.

Both leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining the closest possible partnership between the EU and the UK.

"Ireland and France are the UK's nearest neighbours, with significant and complex economic, human, cultural and historical links. In consequence, both countries have specific and indeed unique concerns to be addressed in future negotiations," the statement said.

Speaking during a press conference afterwards, Mr Hollande said that the UK cannot access the EU market without free movement.

Mr Hollande is also to pay a courtesy visit to President Michael D Higgins on his trip, which was expected to to last little more than five hours.

He is also to attend a special event for the French community in Ireland.

However, his visit has been shortened since last week's incident in Nice in which 84 people lost their lives when a man drove a lorry into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day.

During their meeting, President Hollande briefed Mr Kenny on the current security situation and both men agreed "on the urgent need to accelerate ongoing work on a range of EU counter-terrorism and security actions".

President Hollande cancelled a visit to the Islandbridge War Memorial Gardens where he was due to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of Irishmen who died in World War One fighting for French liberty.

The president is also due to meet the Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday evening in Paris.