Friday 19 January 2018

Le Pen's National Front leads anti-EU backlash

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, and Geert Wilders, leader of Dutch Eurosceptic Freedom Party
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, and Geert Wilders, leader of Dutch Eurosceptic Freedom Party

Luke Baker in Brussels

The far-right, anti-EU National Front was forecast to win a European Parliament election in France yesterday, topping a nationwide ballot for the first time in a stunning advance for opponents of European integration.

Exit polls showed the far right and Eurosceptics making sweeping gains in European Parliament elections yesterday, signaling a major political shift toward parties that want to slash the European Union's powers or abolish it altogether.

Polls in recent days had predicted Eurosceptics could snag as many as a third of the seats in the EU's 751-seat legislature in the vote ending yesterday.

One of the most significant winners appeared to be France's far-right National Front. Two polling companies said the party, led by Marine Le Pen, was the outright winner in France, with one-quarter of the popular vote.

While in Britain the UK Independence Party has won a national election for the first time, taking the most votes and seats in the European Parliament elections according to sources in all of Britain's main political parties.

The Ukip victory, which came as anti-establishment parties advanced across the European Union, represents the biggest shock to the British political system in a generation.

Even before the final results were announced, sources in Ukip and the three older political parties were all predicting a historic victory for Nigel Farage's party, which was founded in 1993 and does not have a single MP or council leader.

Labour was on course to come second, the first time the main Opposition party has failed to win a European election since 1984 and a serious setback to Ed Miliband. Voters in 21 of the European Union's 28 nations voted yesterday. The other seven countries had already voted, in a sprawling exercise of democracy that began last Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands. The shock results could herald changes in EU policy, in areas ranging from border control and immigration to a new trade and investment agreement being negotiated with the US. Pollsters said the Danish People's Party was also on target to become Denmark's biggest party with 23pc of the vote, and a year-old party in Germany that wants that country to stop using the euro single currency reportedly won 6.7pc of the vote.

Reacting to her party's strong showing, Le Pen said last night: "This hope should unite us."

In the Netherlands, however, the right-wing Eurosceptic Party for Freedom surprisingly dropped from second to fourth place, pollsters reported.

Even in victory, unity may be hard to find in the fractured Eurosceptic camp. Le Pen has said she will work in the Parliament with the Dutch Party for Freedom, but UKIP leader Nigel Farage has ruled out cooperating with both those parties, which have stridently anti-immigrant platforms. "We won't work with right-wing populists," Alternative for Germany's leader Bernd Lucke also said after the vote, insisting his party was generally in favour of the European Union despite its rejection of the currency.


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