Sunday 4 December 2016

Far right is emboldened as rallying calls to follow Britain out of Europe rock Continent

Mary Fitzgerald

Published 02/07/2016 | 02:30

France’s Front National leader Marine Le Pen at the European Parliament in Brussels this week. Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert
France’s Front National leader Marine Le Pen at the European Parliament in Brussels this week. Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Of the ill winds that have gathered in the wake of the UK's week-old decision to leave the EU, none has quite blown as ominously as in France. The British vote to quit the bloc has emboldened the country's far right like never before, and calls for a similar referendum in France are gaining momentum.

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Marine Le Pen, leader of the increasingly popular National Front, has given a string of interviews posed against a party banner reading, 'Brexit - and now France', a slogan that she also uses on her Twitter profile. Again and again she crows to media that the UK referendum result signals what she calls "the beginning of the end of the European Union".

Le Pen's National Front has gone from near pariah status back in the days when her father Jean-Marie founded the party, to garnering around 29pc of the vote in the first round of last year's regional elections. Now Le Pen has the presidency in her sights. With troubled France - still in a jittery state of emergency after last year's terrorist attacks - already bracing itself for what promises to be one of the country's most bitter and bruising presidential elections next May, it is clear that the relationship with Europe will be a key theme for all candidates.

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