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Best way for UK to keep EU trade links is EU membership: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech before a debate on the Future of Europe at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - The best way for Britain to maintain a strong trade relationship with Europe would be to remain a member of the European Union, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday.

Addressing the European parliament, Macron was asked by a lawmaker how he intended to keep the strongest economic links between Britain and the EU after it leaves the bloc.

“I’m for the strongest and closest relationship possible, and there’s one solution we know well for that: it’s EU membership,” he replied, half in jest. “It’s the one solution that allows access to the single market, access to (EU) freedoms and a good integration.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain will not stay in the European single market - which would mean giving EU citizens the freedom to work in the country - or join a customs union with the bloc after Brexit. Brussels insists that this will mean some barriers for UK exports.

“There’s no cherry picking in the single market. You have to be coherent in the choices you make,” Macron said. “Many people in your country propose ‘what if scenarios’, but don’t explain what happens the day after. The day after, you necessarily have to grasp with reality.”

Reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and Alastair Macdonald in Strasbourg; editing by David Stamp