‘Vote Leave’ campaign leader calls for travel ban on Marine Le Pen

The leader of the official pro-Brexit campaign has asked the British Home Secretary to ban Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front, from entering the United Kingdom. EURACTIV France reports.

In this letter, which was revealed by the BBC on Sunday (24 April) and seen by AFP, Gisela Stuart, a Labour MP and co-president of the official “Vote Leave” Brexit campaign, asked the Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May to “refuse admission” to the “extremist” leader of the French National Front (NF).

Le Pen is expected to give an anti-EU speech in the UK at some time in the near future.

The NF’s second in command, Florian Philippot, told AFP that Le Pen had been “asked to come and support the Brexit camp” and was “looking into the possibility” of joining the debate.

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“The United Kingdom is a constitutional state and an advanced democracy, so a French citizen, particularly an elected politician, is perfectly free to travel there,” he added.

Support for Brexit

A visit by Le Pen “would show the British people that want to leave the European Union that they are supported by other prominent European leaders”, Philippot said.

Stuart said that the extreme right politician 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”.

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“I urge you to exercise your powers under immigration legislation to refuse her admission into the country if and when she attempts to visit the UK,” the Labour MP wrote.

In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, May refused to give details of any action she might take on the issue, saying she could not comment on “individual cases”.

Border controls

One of the main arguments of the pro-Brexit camp is that a UK outside the EU would be better able to control its borders and cut immigration from the continent.

May, a renowned Eurosceptic who has decided to stand by David Cameron and campaign to remain in the EU, told the BBC, “The fact that she’s written to me to suggest that I should stop somebody coming into the country rather does suggest we have control of our borders.”

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Nigel Farage, the leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP), told Sky News that he did not think an intervention by Marine Le Pen would be beneficial to the Brexit campaign, but opposed the idea of imposing a travel ban.

At a conference this Saturday (23 April) in Sinaia, Romania, Le Pen argued that all EU member states should follow the British example and put their European Union membership to a vote.

During his campaign for re-election in 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union and organise a referendum to decide whether or not Britain should remain in the 28-member bloc.

The British PM said he will campaign for Britain to remain in the EU after a two-day summit in Brussels where he obtained concessions from the 27 other EU leaders to give Britain “special status” in the EU.

But EU leaders had their red lines, and ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.

The decision on whether to stay or go could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.

The campaign will be bitterly contested in a country with a long tradition of euroscepticism and a hostile right-wing press, with opinion polls showing Britons are almost evenly divided.

  • 23 June: UK referendum on EU membership.
  • 27-28 June: EU summit.
  • July-December 2017:  UK holds rotating EU Council Presidency.

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