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Brussels panic as Le Pen victory in France today would ‘spell end of the EU’

ALARM bells are ringing in Brussels over fears a shock victory for Marine Le Pen today in today’s French presidential election could “spell the end of the EU as we know it”.

The right-wing candidate could put France “on a direct collision course” with Brussels, an expert has claimed.

Marine Le Pen, seen casting her vote today, is in the final two in the French presidential election

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Marine Le Pen, seen casting her vote today, is in the final two in the French presidential electionCredit: AFP
The presidential candidate Marine Le Pen waved as she left the polling station

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The presidential candidate Marine Le Pen waved as she left the polling stationCredit: AFP
Le Pen is looking to unseat Emmanuel Macron - who pollsters believe has a healthy lead

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Le Pen is looking to unseat Emmanuel Macron – who pollsters believe has a healthy leadCredit: AP
The polling gap between the pair is far smaller this time around

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The polling gap between the pair is far smaller this time aroundCredit: AP
Le Pen poses with supporters at a rally earlier this week

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Le Pen poses with supporters at a rally earlier this weekCredit: AP

Le Pen is up against incumbent Emmanuel Macron, in a repeat of 2017’s election runoff, although the polling gap between the pair is far smaller this time around.

Recent polls show the centrist Macron’s lead over Le Pen is only just above the margin for error, meaning a seismic upset is still possible.

Le Pen has previously spoken in favour of France following Britain’s lead in leaving the EU in a so-called “Frexit”.

And should Paris decide to quit the Brussels bloc, it is believed the whole EU project could come crashing down.

Le Pen, who is often described as far-right, is snapping at Macron’s heels as the French polls are due to close today.

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She is believed to be hell-bent on bringing “an end to the EU as we know it” if voted into power as her proposals on Europe “amount to ‘Frexit’ in all but name”.

Le Pen says she wants to “reform the EU from within” in what James Shields – Professor of French Politics at the University of Warwick – says would “herald drastic changes in terms of France’s place within the EU”.

He told The Sun Online: “Le Pen no longer argues overtly for French withdrawal from the EU and euro, as she did in 2017, declaring now her intent to reform the EU from within.

“But her programme, if implemented, would pose critical challenges to France’s continued membership of the EU.

“Her proposals on Europe amount to ‘Frexit’ in all but name.”

When the UK’s referendum back in 2016 lead to the country leaving the EU, Le Pen boldly declared Brexit had “really broken a taboo”.

Professor Shields added: “Her key principle of “priorité nationale” (priority for French nationals in jobs, social housing, welfare benefits and health care) would put her on a collision course with EU law.”

Le Pen’s calls to give precedence to French law over European law are “also a fundamental challenge to France’s EU membership,” he went on.

“And her proposal to cut France’s contribution to the EU budget would be a serious economic blow for the EU and set a precedent for other, more Eurosceptic, member states,” he added.

“So, under a Le Pen presidency, France would put its EU membership under inordinate strain and would at the very least cease to be the leading force within the EU that it has always been.”

As she bids to get the keys to the Élysée Palace, Le Pen appears to have dramatically softened her stance on taking France – one of the founding members of the EU – out of the bloc and ditching the euro.

After advancing to the second round of voting, the candidate insisted she has dropped the pledge, saying: “I do not want to leave the EU. That is not my objective.”

Although her electoral programme does not name the EU, experts say her proposed policies clearly contradict the bloc’s core principles.

And question marks hang over whether the far-right politician’s pledge for change is merely a tactical switch as she looks to perhaps derail the union from the inside.

There could not be a clearer statement of intent to bring an end to the EU as we know it

James ShieldsProfessor of French Politics, University of Warwick

Professor Shields says France’s departure could spell the end or at least a seismic shift for the bloc as the country has been a leading powerhouse in the union since it was created in 1993, replacing the European Economic Community, founded in 1957.

“It’s hard to see how the EU could continue on its path without France as a key member and without the Franco-German tandem that has been at the heart of the EU from the outset,” he said.

“Yet Le Pen is clear that she wishes to reassert French power and sovereignty by loosening ties with Germany no less than with Brussels.

“Le Pen’s presidential programme is explicit in its aim to convert the EU into ‘a European Alliance of Nations’ and to end the project of ‘an ideologically-driven federalist super-state’.

“There could not be a clearer statement of intent to bring an end to the EU as we know it.”

“The Brits have shown us that you can leave the European Union and you can come out better,” the National Rally leader said.

But fast-forward two years – and with incumbent leader Macron on tenterhooks as he sets his sights on becoming the only president to be re-elected for 20 years – Le Pen is singing a different tune.

It’s thought Le Pen has changed her electoral programme after her hardline policy proposal proved wildly unpopular in the 2017 election as Macron scooped the win with a decisive margin.

Professor Shields said: “Le Pen saw in 2017 that her proposed ‘Frexit’ was unpopular not just with French voters at large but even within her own support base.

“This was a contributory factor (among many) in her heavy defeat.

“The economic consequences for France of pulling out of the euro
outweighed the gains in French sovereignty, so it was abandoned as a policy.”

This time around, Le Pen and Macron both swept through to the second round of voting after bagging 23.1 per cent and 27.8 per cent of the votes respectively.

Demonstrators march during a Yellow Vests protest in Paris

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Demonstrators march during a Yellow Vests protest in ParisCredit: Rex
A heavy police presence oversaw the protest

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A heavy police presence oversaw the protestCredit: Rex
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron stand in the voting booths

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French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron stand in the voting boothsCredit: Reuters
Voters were seen on Sunday to have their say over the next French leader

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Voters were seen on Sunday to have their say over the next French leaderCredit: Getty

Mujtaba Rahman, the Europe director of Eurasia Group, told The Guardian: “Le Pen’s EU policy is: ‘We’re going to stay in the bus but drive it off a cliff’.”

He said Le Pen will try to “destroy the EU from the inside” and will be a “much greater threat to the status quo than Brexit”.

The pair will endure a showdown on Sunday as millions heads to the polls to cast their vote.

But in the run-up to the run-off, Macron himself accused his election rival of hatching a secret plan to drag France out of the EU.

He claims that “she wants to leave but does not dare say so” and accused her of “talking rubbish” about the EU.

At a rally in Strasbourg, he said: “She says that she wants an alliance of nation-states.

“But she is going to find herself in a corner and she is going to try to come up with an alliance with her friends.

“The EU has changed the life of this country. This election is a referendum on Europe.”

And Michel Barnier, the bloc’s former Brexit negotiator, has previously warned France could follow Britain out of the bloc.

Pascal Lamy, who was chief of staff to the former European Commission president Jacques Delors, said a Le Pen win would be a bigger shock for France than Trump was for the US and Brexit was for the UK.

High-profile efforts to stop her from getting into power have included EU officials accuse Le Pen and her father of embezzling €620,000 (£513,000).

EU anti-fraud investigators say she and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, 93, misappropriated the money on behalf of their party, the far-Right National Rally.

But her lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, said the timing appears to be completely political.

He said: “Marine Le Pen contests this. She contests it without having had access to the details of the accusations. It’s a manipulation, and unfortunately, I’m not surprised.”

She’s also faced scathing claims by the French leader who says Le Pen was “in the grip of Russia” and made herself “dependent” on Vladimir Putin.

Ms Le Pen’s National Rally party took a £8million loan from a Russian First Czech-Russian Bank in 2014.

Macron accused Ms Le Pen, 53, of being “unfit” to replace him due to the outstanding debt.

Mr Macron said: “You don’t speak to other leaders, you speak to your banker when you speak to Russia, that’s the problem.

“None of us went to seek financing from a Russian bank, and especially not from one that is close to power in Russia.”

Results posted just hours after their final TV face-off showed the incumbent head of state on 59 percent of the vote, and his far-Right rival on 39 percent, with 2 percent abstentions.

A similar outcome in the final round of the 2022 presidential election on Sunday would see Le Pen be forced to accept defeat.

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He said her views “totally contradict the French commitment to European integration” and her policies ” are in total breach of the treaties to which France has subscribed”.

Jean-Louis Bourlanges, a centrist MP, said “her programme is not compatible with continued French membership of the EU”, while Georg Riekeles, a former official, said Le Pen could put the EU “into gridlock or paralyse it”.

French President Emmanuel Macron, candidate for his re-election, and his wife Brigitte Macron seen leaving their home to vote

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French President Emmanuel Macron, candidate for his re-election, and his wife Brigitte Macron seen leaving their home to voteCredit: Reuters
Le Pen's links to Putin have come under question in the lead up to the election

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Le Pen’s links to Putin have come under question in the lead up to the electionCredit: Alamy



Reference-www.thesun.co.uk

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