Emmanuel Macron has no interest in seeing a “hard Brexit” according to the president-elect’s economic adviser, Jean Pisani-Ferry.
Mr Pisani-Ferry, who is expected to be given a key advisory role to the new president, said that Mr Macron would be a “tough and demanding partner” but that he would not seek to “punish” Britain.
“I don’t think anyone has an interest in a hard Brexit,” Mr Pisani-Ferry told the BBC’s Today programme. “We have to build a new relationship.”
He said there was “a mutual interest” in maintaining strong economic, security and scientific ties between the EU and Britain to “keep the economic prosperity that exists”.
“At the same time there are divergent interests in some aspects of the relationship. There will be difficult negotiations and he will be tough.”
Mr Pisani-Ferry has been tipped for a role as Mr Macron’s EU “sherpa” – his chief European adviser and negotiator – an appointment that would be viewed positively in London.
The academic co-authored a paper last year advocating a soft approach to Brexit, but Mr Pisani-Ferry said that was written “in a previous life” and its ideas had met “very little success” with the 27 remaining member states.
Last night Theresa May spoke to the president-elect to “warmly congratulate him on his election victory”.
Downing St said:
The leaders briefly discussed Brexit and the prime minister reiterated that the UK wants a strong partnership with a secure and prosperous EU once we leave.
The Prime Minister and President-elect Macron looked forward to meeting and holding discussions at the upcoming NATO and G7 summits.
Mrs May met Mr Macron in London in February, in a sign of her approval of the free-trading, English-speaking former Rothschild banker, who is also something of a pin-up for Britain’s pro-European, liberal classes.
But Mr Macron said this year said that there could be no “caveat or waiver” to the EU’s “unbreakable” position of defending its own interests first in the divorce negotiations.
He has warned during the campaign that Brexit was “a crime” and that it would leave the UK in a state of “servitude” rather than taking control of its own destiny.