Here comes Frexit! Emmanuel Macron warns France could be next country to leave EU if Marine Le Pen wins election

EMMANUEL Macron has accused election rival Marine Le Pen of hatching a secret plan to drag France out of the EU.

The French President has cast this month’s showdown as a Brexit-style referendum on his country’s membership.

AFP
Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are contesting the French election[/caption]
Getty - Contributor
Mr Macron has cast the contest as a referendum on France’s EU membership[/caption]

His remarks come with polls showing a run-off contest between the pair is set to be much closer than five years ago.

During a campaign visit today Ms Le Pen refused to rule out holding a public vote on France leaving the bloc.

She said: “The French can reassess their presence on whichever international organisations they choose.

“In the case of a referendum that is against the fundamental interests of the country, the president and the National Assembly can oppose it.

“But that is not the case with an exit from the EU.”

The far-right candidate has previously campaigned for a “Frexit” and said France should bin the euro.

But she has dropped those policies during this campaign in a bid to present a softer image to French voters.

Instead she has pledged to work with other eurosceptics to change the project from within.

Mrs Le Pen wants to rip up the EU’s border-free Schengen zone and reintroduce border checks.

She has also vowed to pull out of the bloc’s electricity market and remove agriculture from future trade deals.

Critics say her pledges would set France on such a collision course with Brussels they amount to Frexit by stealth.

Mr Macron claims that “she wants to leave but does not dare say so” and accused her of “talking rubbish” about the EU.

At a rally in Strasbourg he said: “She says that she wants an alliance of nation states.

“But she is going to find herself in a corner and she is going to try to come up with an alliance with her friends.

“The EU has changed the life of this country. This election is a referendum on Europe.”

Michel Barnier, the bloc’s former Brexit negotiator, has previously warned France could follow Britain out of the bloc.

CLOSE CONTEST

Mr Macron won 27.8% of the vote in the first round of voting on Sunday, with Mrs Pen coming second on 23.2%.

The pair will campaign for another two weeks, including a TV debate, before the run-off on April 24.

Recent polls show the sitting president is on course to win a second term although the gap is narrowing.

He is now leading Ms Le Pen by 53% to 47%. A fortnight ago it was 55-45, and three weeks ago the gap was 58-42.

EU nations are watching with growing unease as a win for the far-right candidate would be a major blow to the project.

Mr Macron has been criticised for failing to declare his candidacy until the last minute then running a limp campaign.

He attempted to stay above the fray and cast himself as a leader in Europe and the world over the Ukraine war.

But his repeated phone calls to Vladimir Putin have achieved nothing and critics say he has appeared aloof.

He is now cramming in a whistle stop tour of the country in a bid to reverse his high-handed image and his fortunes.

In contrast Mrs Le Pen has toured smaller towns across the country tapping into anger over the cost of living crisis.

She has promised to reverse Mr Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 and to exempt under-30s from income tax.

The far-right leader has managed to largely brush off her links to the Kremlin and previous praise for Putin.

She has backed EU sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine so far but opposes an oil and gas embargo.

In 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, her party received a £9.4 million loan from a bank with links to the Kremlin.



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