French magazine Challenges stated yesterday that all three main opponents to Mr Macron have to pretend they will be able to impose their proposals on the country should they win, despite being incompatible with EU regulations. Citing a Viavoic poll which suggested that 63 percent of the French want to stay in the EU, the mag states that the candidates are in a “balancing position,” having to appease a pro-EU public while making non-EU proposals”.
This balancing act has been described as a “hidden Frexit.” All three candidates have made their distaste for the EU abundantly clear across interviews and tweets, despite not calling for Frexit in the run-up to the election.
Challenges claim that in a private conversation, Marine Le Pen, 2022 candidate for the National Rally party, attributed her 2017 election loss to her proposal for Frexit.
She now says that for France, leaving the EU is “no longer a priority”.
However, she also described it as a “ball and chain for France,” and in an interview with another French newspaper, did not deny her “ambition to put an end to this supranational and federal vision of the European Union”.
She added: “The EU works as a sort of sect that cannot be left without triggering quasi-religious condemnation from its leaders.
“I deplored the lamentable attitude of the Europeanists who, after Brexit, would have wanted the British to pay for their taste for freedom, with the barely concealed ulterior motive of dissuading other candidates from leaving.
“It’s a machine for methodically crushing the identities and sovereignties of the Nations that compose it.”
She added that it would have been more “pragmatic” for France and the UK to be able to discuss certain Brexit matters such as fishing outside of the context of other EU members, and described EU’s vaccine rollout as a “fiasco” compared with Britain.
Ms Le Pen, who was ranked by Politico in 2016 as the second most influential MEP in the European Parliament after President Martin Schulz before she left in 2017, currently states she will try to change the EU from within.
She said: “We have just signed a joint declaration with 15 parties in Europe and in particular with the ruling parties in Hungary and Poland, a collective approach which prefigures joint actions to guarantee or restore the sovereignty of States in the functioning of the EU.
“We believe that France’s interest is not to leave the EU, but to change it from within.”
Other candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left wing Unsubmissive France party, has also historically shown a desire to cut ties with the EU despite not including Frexit in his election promises.
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In September last year, he stated in an interview with Le Figaro that France is “locked in European treaties which mean that those who govern no longer have any margin of action.
“This is why I want to get out of the treaties. If the French vote for my programme, I make a commitment that my programme will be applied from start to finish and if that does not suit European treaties, I will opt-out.”
Far-right candidate for the Reconquest party, Éric Zemmour, who was yesterday fined €10,000 (£8,350) for hate speech after describing unaccompanied migrant children as “thieves”, “rapists” and “murderers,” is in a similar position.
He has tweeted several times this month about his desire to reduce France’s connection with the EU.
He said: “Emmanuel Macron and Valérie Pécresse are European federalists. They think that we should give more and more sovereignty to Europe. I think the opposite.
“I will always defend France’s interests. I will never sacrifice my country to the chimera of European defence.”
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Despite this, Mr Zemmour has not committed to Frexit as a campaign proposal.
However, Frexit campaigner and presidential candidate for the Popular Republican Union Francois Asselineau argued on Twitter that the “hidden Frexit” is true of all the candidates.
He also argued that the presumption that Frexit would be an unpopular suggestion due to current polling is inaccurate.
This is because, argues Mr Asselineau, there has been no substantial public debate on the subject in French politics, and polling results are not always accurate reflections of what people will choose come voting day.
He said of Challenges’ conclusion: “It is by fear of media censorship that they prefer to manipulate the French rather than telling them the truth. Zero respect!”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.