LONDON — The next president of France will either be centrist Emmanuel Macron or far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
The pair made it through the first round of voting over the weekend and will battle it out until Sunday, May 7 when French voters will elect one of them to succeed outgoing president François Hollande.
The result of the first round of voting dealt a major blow to France’s long-standing political establishment, with the country’s ruling Socialist Party and centre-right opposition the Republicans failing to make it past the first hurdle.
Macron and Le Pen have two distinctly different political ideologies — especially when it comes to the European Union. This is illustrated in their views on Brexit and whether it was a positive moment for Britain and the continent.
This is what they think.
Centrist Macron is a passionate Europhile. He is pro-global trade, socially liberal and believes in the European project.
He has also been a vocal critic of Britain’s decision to leave the 28-nation bloc.
In his election manifesto, the former economy minister described Brexit as a “crime” and said it would leave Britain so weak that it would be in “servitude” after completing its withdrawal.
He is fully committed to protecting the long-term interests of the EU and would likely drive a hard bargain in negotiations with UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
“I am attached to a strict approach to Brexit: I respect the British vote but the worst thing would be a sort of weak EU vis-a-vis the British,” Macron told Bloomberg in October.
“I don’t want a tailor-made approach where the British have the best of two worlds. That will be too big an incentive for others to leave and kill the European idea, which is based on shared responsibilities.”
He added that there can be no “caveat or waiver” to the EU’s “unbreakable” position.
Front National leader Le Pen, on the other hand, is vehemently anti-EU. She is a staunch nationalist and says she wants France to regain sovereignty and borders from the 28-nation bloc.
She is a vocal supporter of Brexit and has called for France to follow Britain’s lead i.e. “Frexit.” In an interview with LBC radio last month, Le Pen lauded the British public for escaping the “huge prison” of Brussels. She said: “It’s a very strong signal.
“It [Brexit] shows that there is at least one way of finding the keys of the jail because we have been told that it was impossible to leave the EU and the UK has just demonstrated that when people want it, well, you can set up the conditions to exit the EU.
“It is very lucky for the UK and everybody knows that because beyond the strategy of fear implemented before Brexit, Great Britain is already reaping all the benefits of this bold decision that the people made.”
She added: “It makes it possible to be free and to move forward without the EU poking a knife in your ribs and obliging you to go somewhere you may not want to go. It makes you able to control your borders, your economy. You can negotiate trade agreements in the interest of your country.”
Le Pen has warned EU leaders that punishing Britain in exit negotiations will only “play into her hands” as it would damage the 28-nation bloc’s reputation and fuel populist movements across the continent.
“The way the EU has reacted to Brexit has put paid to the few in Europe who still believe that there is an ounce of democracy in this structure, that is the EU.”
“Europe would be showing its true face, as it already has done so in Greece and tried to do with Britain,” she said.
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