Monday, February 19, 2018 | ePaper

Macron says 'door always open' for UK to stay in EU

British PM and French President also announced a joint action plan to tackle online extremism

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Emmanuel Macron said that he respected the sovereign decision of the British people to leave the EU.

AFP, Paris :
French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday the door was "always open" for Britain to remain in the EU after Prime Minister Theresa May said Brexit talks would begin next week.
"Of course the door is always open as long as the negotiations on Brexit have not finished," Macron said in a press conference.
But he stressed too that he respected the sovereign decision of the British people to leave the EU in their referendum a year ago, adding that the start of talks was an important milestone.
"We need to be clear and organised and once it (the Brexit process) has started we need to be collectively clear that it's more difficult to reverse course," he said at the Elysee palace.
Macron's comments echoed others by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Tuesday.
"If they wanted to change their decision, of course they would find open doors, but I think it's not very likely," Schaeuble told Bloomberg Television.
May repeated her plans to stick to her timetable of starting discussions next week despite ongoing negotiations to form a government.
She was also asked if the loss of her parliamentary majority in a bungled snap election last week would alter her decision to withdraw Britain from the EU single market and customs union, a so-called "hard Brexit".
"I think there's a unity of purpose among people in the UK. It's a unity of purpose having voted to leave the EU that their government gets on with that and makes a success of it," she said.
May said the process would lead to "an arrangement for Brexit which will be the interests of the United Kingdom and the remaining 27 members of the EU."
After the talks, May and Macron also announced a joint action plan to tackle online extremism which aims to increase the pressure on internet giants and social media companies to tackle terror propaganda and hate speech.
It includes exploring the creation of new laws that would impose penalties on internet companies if they failed to act.
Meanwhile, the leaders of France and Britain on Tuesday announced an anti-terror action plan to crack down on radicalisation through social media.
After talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said both countries agreed that social networks were not doing enough to stamp out terror propaganda.
Speaking after terror attacks in Manchester and London, Macron said the two countries had worked on a "very concrete" action plan.
He said one of the key measures would aim at preventing the incitement of "hate and terrorism" on the internet.
May said she and Macron agreed that "more should be done to tackle the terrorist threat online".
She said the British and French campaign was aimed to "ensure the internet cannot... be used to host the radicalising material that leads to so much harm."
May said the British government was already working with social media companies "to halt the spread of extremist material and poisonous propaganda that warps young minds", adding: "But we know they need to do more.
"Today we can announce that the UK and France will work together to encourage organisations to do more and abide by their social responsibility to step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks."
The campaign includes exploring the possibility of legal penalties against tech companies if they fail to take the necessary action to remove unacceptable content, May said.
Britain was rocked by a suicide bombing at a pop concert on May 22 which killed 22 people, including children, followed two weeks later by a knife and van attack in central London, which left eight dead.
France has been a constant target for jihadist attacks since 2015, with more than 230 people killed.

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