French presidential candidate plans firm line on Brexit

Emmanuel Macron warned Theresa May that Britain would receive "no undue advantage" from Brexit during a meeting at her offices this afternoon

The leading candidate in the French presidential election has told the British Prime Minister that the UK should not receive preferential treatment from the EU after Brexit.

Emmanuel Macron who has become the unexpected favourite to win in the vote in May held talks with Theresa May at her offices this afternoon.

"Brexit cannot lead to a kind of optimisation of Britain's relationship with the rest of Europe,” he told reporters on the steps of Downing Street. “An exit is an exit."

"In particular there cannot be access to the single market without budgetary contributions [to the EU)] ... I am very determined that there will be no undue advantages."

A move across The Channel

He also called for "banks, talents, researchers [and] academics" to consider moving to France after the Brexit process is complete.

He said, if elected, his programmes would include "a series of initiatives to get talented people in research and lots of fields working here to come to France."

"I was very happy to see that some academics and researchers in the UK, because of Brexit, are considering coming to France to work,” he said.

"It will be part of my programme to be attractive for these kinds of people.

"I think that France and the European Union are a very attractive space now so in my programme I will do everything I can to make it attractive and successful."

Mr Macron told reporters that he had spoken to Theresa May to assure her he was open to a "fair execution of Brexit" which would protect French and European interests.

Penelopegate

The 39-year-old, who only started his En Marche movement in April after leaving the ruling Socialist party, has come from behind to lead the polls and is expected to make it through to the final two-round contest against the National Front's Marine Le Pen after the Republican candidate Francois Fillon’s campaign was hit by the "Penelopegate" scandal.

Mr Fillon is accused of paying his British wife and other family members for work they did not do - although he insists the jobs they had were "real."

Mr Macron is the only candidate to request a meeting with Mrs May, although Downing Street made it clear that there was a long-standing British government policy not to engage with the far-right National Front party.

A spokesman said the meeting was not unprecedented and added that Tony Blair had met with Nicolas Sarkozy when he was running for the presidency in 2007.

Mr Macron was due to address 3,000 French voters in Westminster's Central Hall early on Tuesday evening.

Additional reporting from IRN ...