ALARM bells are ringing in Brussels over fears that a shock victory by Marine Le Pen in today’s French presidential election “could mean 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 claims.
Le Pen is up against incumbent Emmanuel Macron in a repeat of the 2017 runoff, although this time the difference in opinion between the two is much smaller.
Recent polls show that centrist Macron’s lead over Le Pen is just above the margin of error, meaning a seismic surprise is still a possibility.
Le Pen has previously advocated for France to follow Britain’s lead in leaving the EU in a so-called “Frexit”.
And should Paris decide to leave the Brussels bloc, the entire EU project could collapse.
Le Pen, often described as far-right, is snapping at Macron’s heels as French polling stations are due to close today.
She is believed to be desperate to “put an end to the EU as we know it” if elected to power according to her proposals Europe “equate to ‘Frexit’ in everything but the name”.
Le Pen says she wants to “reform the EU from within”, which according to James Shields – professor of French politics at the University of Warwick – would “herald drastic changes in terms of France’s place in the EU”.
He told The Sun Online: “Le Pen is no longer openly pleading for France’s exit from the EU and the euro as she did in 2017 and is now declaring her intention to reform the EU from within.
“But their program, if implemented, would pose critical challenges to France’s continued membership of the EU.
“Your proposals on Europe boil down to ‘Frexit’, right down to the name.”
When Britain’s 2016 referendum resulted in the country’s exit from the EU, Le Pen boldly declared that Brexit “really broke a taboo”.
Professor Shields added: “Their central principle of ‘priorité nationale’ (priority for French nationals in jobs, social housing, welfare and healthcare) would put them on a collision course with EU law.”
Le Pen’s calls for French law to take precedence over European law are “also a fundamental challenge to France’s EU membership,” he continued.
“And their proposal to cut France’s contribution to the EU budget would be a serious economic blow to the EU and a precedent for other, more Eurosceptic member states,” he added.
“So under a Le Pen presidency, France would unduly burden its EU membership and at least cease to be the leading force within the EU, which it always was.”
When she asks to be given the keys to the Élysée Palace, Le Pen seems to have softened her attitude towards taking it dramatically France – one of the founding members of the EU – left the bloc and the euro.
After advancing to the second round, the candidate insisted she had dropped the promise, saying: “I don’t want to leave the EU. That’s not my goal.”
Although its election manifesto does not name the EU, experts say its proposed policies clearly run counter to the bloc’s founding principles.
And question marks hang over whether the far-right politician’s promise of change is just a tactical switch as she seeks to derail the union, perhaps from within.
There could not be a clearer statement of intent to end the EU as we know it
Professor Shields says France’s exit could spell the end, or at least a seismic turn, for the bloc, given that the country has been a leading powerhouse in the Union since its creation in 1993, replacing the European Economic Community formed in 1957.
“It’s hard to imagine how the EU could continue on its way without France as a key member and without the Franco-German tandem that has been at the heart of the EU from the start,” he said.
However, Le Pen is clear that she wants to restore French power and sovereignty by loosening ties with Germany no less than with Brussels.
“Le Pen’s presidency program explicitly aims to transform the EU into a ‘European Alliance of Nations’ and end the project of an ‘ideologically driven federalist superstate’.
“There couldn’t be a clearer declaration of intent to end the EU as we know it.”
“The British have shown us that you can leave the European Union and come out better,” said the national rally boss.
But two years later – and with incumbent leader Macron in a bind who has set his sights on becoming the only president to be re-elected for 20 years – Le Pen is singing a different tune.
Le Pen is believed to have changed her campaign platform after her hard-edged policy proposal proved hugely unpopular in the 2017 election, when Macron claimed victory by a decisive margin.
Professor Shields said: “Le Pen saw in 2017 that her proposed ‘Frexit’ was unpopular not only with French voters at large but even with her own supporter base.
“This was one factor (among many) that contributed to their heavy defeat.
“The Economic Consequences of Leaving the Euro for France
gains in French sovereignty outweighed it, so it was abandoned as a policy.
This time, Le Pen and Macron both made it to the second round after receiving 23.1 percent and 27.8 percent of the vote, respectively.
Mujtaba Rahman, Eurasia Group’s Europe Director, said The guard: “Le Pen’s EU policy is: ‘We stay on the bus, but drive it off the cliff’.”
He said Le Pen will try to “destroy the EU from within” and pose a “much bigger threat to the status quo than Brexit”.
The couple will have a showdown on Sunday when millions of people go to the polls to cast their votes.
But in the run-up to the runoff, Macron himself accused his electoral rival hatch a secret plan to pull France out of the EU.
He claims “she wants to go but doesn’t dare to say so” and accused her of talking “crap” about the EU.
At a rally in Strasbourg, he said: “She says she wants an alliance of nation states.
“But she will find herself in a corner trying to bond 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 done it before warned France not to follow Britain off the bloc.
Pascal Lamy, chief of staff to former European Commission President Jacques Delors, said a Le Pen win would be a bigger shock to France than Trump would be to the US and Brexit to the UK.
High-profile efforts to prevent her from coming to power have included EU officials accusing Le Pen and her father of embezzling €620,000 (£513,000).
EU fraud investigators say she and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, 93, embezzled the money on behalf of their party, the far-right National Rally.
But her attorney, Rodolphe Bosselut, said the timing appeared to be entirely political.
He said: “Marine Le Pen denies this. She denies this without having access to the details of the allegations. It’s manipulation and unfortunately I’m not surprised.”
She also faces scathing claims from the French leader, who says Le Pen was “in the grip of Russia” and “dependent” on Vladimir Putin.
Ms Le Pen’s National Rally Party took out an £8million loan from a Russian First Czech-Russian bank in 2014.
Macron accused Ms Le Pen, 53, of being “unsuitable” to replace him due to the outstanding debt.
Mr Macron said: “You don’t talk to other leaders, you talk to your banker when you talk to Russia, that’s the problem.
“None of us have sought financing from a Russian bank, especially one that is close to power in Russia.”
The results were released just hours after they were released last TV face-off came the incumbent head of state to 59 percent of the vote, and his far-right rival to 39 percent, with 2 percent abstentions.
A similar result in the final round of the 2022 presidential election on Sunday would see Le Pen forced to accept defeat.
He said their views are “completely at odds with France’s commitment to European integration” and that their policies are “completely contrary to the treaties to which France is a party”.
Jean-Louis Bourlanges, a centrist MP, said “their program is incompatible with continued French membership of the EU,” while Georg Riekeles, a former official, said Le Pen could “freeze or cripple the EU “.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/18318364/france-election-le-pen-victory-eu/ Alarm in Brussels as Marine Le Pen’s victory today would mean the end of the EU as we know it.