October 15, 2016 / 4:40 PM / 3 years ago

Hollande says Brexit should not put free movement at risk

French president Francois Hollande attends a meeting with the French Foreign Affairs Minister and figures from the cultural world and members of associations committted to peace in Syria, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Martin Bureau/Pool

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union should not jeopardize the bloc’s principle of free movement.

“They have decided to leave. I think the worst attitude would be to contest their choice or call into question the very foundations of the European Union,” Hollande told a conference on Europe in Paris.

“So we have to see these negotiations to the end, while maintaining the principles of the European Union, notably that of free movement,” he said.

In wide ranging remarks, Hollande said that although Britain was leaving the EU, it should continue to play a role in Europe’s defense and that European nations would have to be less reliant on the United States for defense.

“There are elections in the United States. A female president will be elected,” Hollande quipped, using the French feminine form “une presidente” without mentioning Hillary Clinton by name, to cheers and laughs.

“Beyond what she represents or her beliefs, know that we must not wait for the United States for the defense European territory. The U.S. will ask Europeans to defend themselves,” he said.

Hollande said the European Union and European states must do more to boost economic growth and not leave the responsibility to the European Central Bank (ECB) alone.

Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Andrew Bolton

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