Author: Kevin Rawlinson, Jane Martinson
Britain has shown the way for other countries to leave the European Union, precipitating the institution’s eventual fall, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far-right, has said.
In an interview with the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, the Front National leader, who leads opinion polls in the French presidential election campaign, said the UK had found the “keys to the jail” represented by the EU.
“We had been told that it was not possible to leave the EU, and the UK has just demonstrated that, when the people want it, we can set up the conditions to exit the EU. So thank you for showing us the way out of this huge prison,” she told Farage.
During the hour-long interview broadcast on Farage’s LBC radio show on Wednesday night, during which Le Pen faced few tough questions, the Front National leader said she felt a “sense of relief” after the Brexit vote. She also insisted that no British immigrants living in France would face persecution, though she said that French people would have priority when it came to jobs.
Moreover, Le Pen claimed to have been snubbed by the British prime minister, Theresa May, who did not meet her, citing a government policy not to deal with the Front National. Le Pen, however, admitted that she had not actually asked for such a meeting.
Despite having taken loans from Russian banks, Le Pen insisted there was no risk of her coming under pressure from Moscow if elected. And she raised the prospect of a bilateral trade deal between the UK and France.
She batted away questions about antisemitism within her party, asking to be judged on her reaction to it instead. Farage, while Ukip leader, refused to set up an alliance with the Front National in the European parliament because of what he called “prejudice and antisemitism” within the French party.
Farage praised Le Pen, saying she had a connection to the French people and asking her why she felt she was the best candidate in the field.
He did not find time to ask her about the numerous legal troubles circling around her campaign, such as the allegations that an adviser illegally funded the Front National’s campaigning in 2014 and 2015.
Frédéric Chatillon and two other party officials already face trial accused of setting up a scheme to overcharge for campaign expenses that were reimbursed by the state during the 2012 general election campaign.
Le Pen also avoided the prospect of answering questions on the allegations that her party siphoned off money from Brussels to fund party expenses in France. She has previously denied the claims.
And Farage found no time to ask her about an investigation by French prosecutors over allegations that she distributed violent images, nor to address claims that Le Pen and her estranged father, the former party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, failed to declare the full value of family properties.
Beforehand, a former director of anti-racist organisation Hope not Hate described LBC’s decision to broadcast the interview as “extraordinary”.
Ruth Smeeth, the Labour MP who is now chair of Labour Friends of Hope not Hate, said the interview should be watched carefully.
However, she did not believe, like some critics of LBC on Twitter, that Le Pen should be refused a platform, partly because the Front National leader could come in the top two in the presidential elections. “Just as we need to fight Ukip and Ukip 2.0, we have to beat their arguments – otherwise they win,” she said.