Marine Le Pen’s U-turn on Frexit after what happened with Brexit: ‘Difficult divorce

Le Pen calls out “anti-democratic and threatening EU”

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Emmanuel Macron will face the far-right candidate in an election run-off after the incumbent President secured 27.6 percent of the vote in the first round, with Ms Le Pen coming second with 23.4 percent. French voters will go to the polls again on April 24 to determine if Mr Macron will become the first French President to win a second term in two decades. Mr Macron easily defeated Ms Le Pen in the run-off five years ago, winning 66 percent of the vote, however this time the National Rally leader has a genuine chance of unseating the President from the Élysée Palace.

During her campaign, Ms Le Pen was made to look less extreme on Islam and immigration by right wing rival Éric Zemmour who attracted defectors including Ms Le Pen’s niece, Marion Maréchal, to his camp.

However, the National Rally leader stands to gain his seven percent of the vote in the second round, having herself consistently campaigned an anti-immigration and anti-EU message.

Ms Le Pen has promised to halt abuse of the right to asylum, and proposed a referendum on restricting immigration, while the National Rally leader also wants to ban the hijab being worn in public.

She also wants to turn the EU into an alliance of nations unchallenged by EU laws.

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However, in a major U-turn, she has dropped her 2017 desire for a French exit from the EU, after having “seen what happened with Brexit”, and instead wants to restructure the bloc so that it puts France first.

Speaking to last November Dr Lees said: “I think [France’s leading role in Europe] offers a perfect opportunity for Macron to say he’s standing up for the French Nation.

“[He’s] going to try to emphasise some of the isolationist views of Le Pen and Zemmour when it comes to French interests first, and [he’s] going to use the European Union to try and succeed in doing that.

“What Le Pen and Zemmour would say is that, ‘We’re sceptical of the European Union’.

“However neither of them are really talking openly now, unlike in 2017, about a Frexit.

“They’ve seen what’s happened with Brexit and they’re not hugely keen so they want to try to reform Europe and try to make it work for French interests.”

Ms Le Pen used to be a staunch supporter of Frexit, and even promised a UK style in-out referendum on membership in her 2017 election manifesto.

However, her stance shifted amid a rebranding of her party in 2017 after a humbling election defeat to Mr Macron, a staunch supporter of the EU.

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Instead, Ms Le Pen told Euronews in 2020 she wanted to recreate the bloc as an “alliance of nations” and said that there were now enough far-right politicians within the EU to “radically modify” Europe.

She added that Brexit had taken three years, and noted how the EU had made that split as “difficult as possible” for the UK.

Ms Le Pen said: “Brexit still took three years.

“There was a real contempt for the people on the part of the leaders of the European Union, who barely hid wanting to make the divorce as difficult as possible.”

In its current form, Ms Le Pen still regards the EU as a “prison” even if a member can leave it.

However the French far-right leader proposed that perhaps one day the UK could return to Ms Le Pen’s proposed new-look bloc.

She said: “Maybe Great Britain can rejoin us once we’ve built something where each nation conserves their freedom.”

Elsewhere, Ms Le Pen’s stance on NATO has triggered alarm across the West, with the National Rally leader having stated her desire to pull the EU’s only nuclear power out of the alliance.

She has insisted France should “no longer be caught up in conflicts that are not ours.”

The stance has provoked particular concern across western nations, as ‒ despite her condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ‒ Ms Le Pen and her party have long enjoyed a good relationship with the Kremlin.

She was one of the few voices from the West to endorse Putin’s annexation of Crimea, while she visited the Kremlin in 2017 to meet with the Russian leader face-to-face.

Meanwhile, her party has in the past received loans from prominent Russian banks.

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