French far-right leader Marine Le Pen called Tuesday (21 June) on all European Union members to follow Britain’s example in holding a referendum on remaining in the bloc.
“What I’m asking for is a referendum in France. Every EU member should be able to have its say in a referendum,” National Front leader Le Pen, a fierce critic of the EU, told France’s TF1 television.
The idea of holding EU-exit referendums in other countries is not new. The country with the most liberal legislation for calling referendums is the Netherlands, where 300,000 signatures suffice to trigger such poll.
Le Pen, who is a candidate for President in the 7 May 2016 elections, repeated that if she was to become the head of state, she would call a referendum during the first six months of her mandate.
The right-wing politician said that France had “a thousand more reasons” to leave the EU than the UK, because France is member of the euro and of Schengen.
Le Pen, who said she would back a Brexit if she were British, presented herself as a “defender of the freedom of people to choose their destiny and choose their laws”.
“It’s been 11 years since the French were asked (about the EU),” she said, adding they had been “betrayed” by France’s two main parties the last time such a vote was held.
Le Pen was referring to the referendum held in 2005, in which French voters rejected a draft EU constitution that was backed by President Francois Hollande’s Socialists and ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP, now known as The Republicans.
Three years later, the French parliament adopted a stripped-down version of the treaty, without resubmitting it to a popular vote.
Since the 2005 setback, mainstream politicians in France loathe the idea of referendum on EU-related issues .
The leader of the National Front, which topped the poll in France’s voting for the European Parliament in 2014, accused the EU of pursuing closer integration “against our will”.
Also accusing the union of being responsible for high eurozone unemployment and of failing to keep out “smugglers, terrorists (and) economic migrants,” Le Pen called on national leaders to come together to “build a Europe of nations to replace the totalitarian EU that we have today.”
Ironically, the Vote Leave campaign in the UK has asked Marine Le pen to be banned from entering the United Kingdom.
Gisela Stuart, a Labour MP and co-president of the official Vote Leave campaign, said that Marine Le Pen had “previously made many divisive and inflammatory comments, including comparing Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation of France”.
She argued that Le Pen’s presence in the UK would not be “conducive to the public good”.
53% of French surveyed would like to hold a referendum on their country’s continued EU membership, according to an opinion poll published on 10 March, fuelling fears that Britain’s own referendum will give others ideas and unravel the EU’s unity.
The survey by the University of Edinburgh looked into public attitudes to the UK’s EU membership referendum in a selection of countries ― Germany, France, Poland, Spain, Ireland, and Sweden.
Among the sample of more than 8,000 voters, the French were the only ones saying in a majority (53%) that they would back holding a similar referendum on their country’s EU membership.
And in Sweden, Germany and Spain there were more respondents in favour of holding a similar referendum than opposed, the survey found.
After the French, the Swedes (49%) seem the most tempted by holding a referendum on the EU, followed by Spaniards (47%) and Germans (45%). Poles (39%) and Irish (38%) were the least favourable.