EU Referendum

Brexit: Freedom of movement 'on the table' for forthcoming talks

UK Border control Image copyright PA

Freedom of movement will be "on the table" when the UK negotiates its withdrawal from the EU, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin says.

EU leaders have warned Britain that it would have to accept the free movement of EU citizens, if it still wanted to have access to the single market.

But Mr Sapin told the BBC's Newsnight that everything - including free movement - was up for discussion.

He added that the UK should now leave the EU "as quickly as possible".

But he said this was not to punish the UK, as he believed the country would "encounter real difficulties" and there was no need to "amplify" 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."

Image caption French Finance Minister Michel Sapin says all subjects will be up for discussion

Mr Sapin went on to say that "everything will be on the table" when it came to the UK negotiating its withdrawal from the European Union "because Britain will make proposals and will negotiate all these aspects with a desire to come to an agreement".

He added: "But we're not there yet, until we have an official decision from the UK. Britain won't be in the same position as it was beforehand. Things will change. Things have already changed.

"We start from zero, as we say in French - a clean slate."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The planned new nuclear plant will be built next to two existing facilities at Hinkley Point in Somerset

Mr Sapin also said certain financial institutions could be tempted to move their operations out of London and to EU nations as a result of the UK leaving the union in future.

"We should prepare for this. Not out of hostility."

He added that he was "surprised" that those who argued for Brexit were "totally unprepared for any of the consequences" and "suddenly discovered difficulties and problems".

"That's the paradox - those who were the least prepared will now have to take responsibility."

Mr Sapin said the French government and energy company EDF, in which it holds an 80% stake, still planned to build a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, despite the Brexit vote.

"Brexit has made waves," he said. "We must calm the waves."

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