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CNN's Results are in for first round in French Presidential election shows a snippet of current French president Emmanuel Macron's recent speech. The English translation provided in audio is widely quoted in recent news (my transcription of the translation):

I want a France that inscribes itself in a strong Europe, which continues to form alliances with great democracies to defend itself. Not a France that exited Europe, (and?) have for its allies the international populace and xenophobes. That's not us.

Hat tip to @mouviciel's for commenting a direct quote in French. From TV5 Mond's En tête, Macron réussit son pari du premier tour:

"Je veux une France qui s'inscrit dans une Europe forte, qui continue de nouer des alliances avec les grandes démocraties pour se défendre, pas une France qui, sortie de l'Europe, n'aurait pour seuls alliés que l'internationale des populistes et des xénophobes", a clamé dimanche M. Macron.

which @terdon's edit (which coincided with mine) translates slightly differently:

I want a France that inscribes itself in a strong Europe, which continues to form alliances with great democracies to defend itself. Not a France that, having exited Europe, will have as its only allies the international populists and xenophobes. That's not us.

"Not a France that, having exited Europe..." seems to me to be highly suggestive that if Macron lost and Marine Le Pen won France's general presidential election, there is a high or at least much higher possibility that France would exit the EU, or Frexit.

There are certainly other related Q&A in this site when searching "frexit is:question":

And searching "le pen is:question" returns several question titles that even repeating them here would get this closed as "trying to defame..."

So here let's focus only on the reality or lack thereof behind the apparent distinction that Macron is making in his recent speech.

Question: "Not a France that exited Europe..." Is Macron just mud-slinging or is there real reason to believe that a president Le Pen could lead to a Frexit?

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    For the record, the french original is : Je veux une France qui s'inscrit dans une Europe forte, qui continue de nouer des alliances avec les grandes démocraties pour se défendre, pas une France qui, sortie de l'Europe, n'aurait pour seuls alliés que l'internationale des populistes et des xénophobes.
    – mouviciel
    Apr 12, 2022 at 12:53
  • Unlikely one would think, given the shambles that Brexit has turned out - for all the world to see.
    – WS2
    Apr 12, 2022 at 15:18
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    See e.g., TV5 Monde. The quoted sentences are near the end of the paper.
    – mouviciel
    Apr 12, 2022 at 15:57
  • @terdon our edits happened at the same time and yours was rejected by the community bot, so I included your better translation myself. Thank you!
    – uhoh
    Apr 12, 2022 at 16:37
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    terdon's translation is more accurate, by the way
    – njzk2
    Apr 12, 2022 at 19:55

2 Answers 2

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Yes, there is a grain of truth in Macron's speech. Historically, Le Pen and her party stood for French independence from international organisations, and if presented with the choice as a president, Le Pen would probably support France leaving the EU. However, at this moment support for leaving the EU in France is slim, and it is unlikely that the situation in the country would deteriorate in near future in a way that would allow the President to actually push for a "Frexit".

Marin Le Pen and her party, The National Rally (prior to 2018 The National Front), are consistent in their conservative position of economic nationalism and opposition to globalism, European Union supranationalism and federalism - or, rather, opposition to any other international organisation that would present a real or perceived threat to french independence - they made it clear on multiple occasions. Moreover, she has called the UK's Brexit vote "the most important moment since the fall of the Berlin Wall", and advocated France to hold a similar vote.

However, while the majority of French seemed to hold an unfavourable view of EU in 2016 (according to this article published prior to Brexit - as much as 61%), support for actually leaving the union was not as strong as in Britain (only 33% for the secession with 45% willing to remain in 2016, according to this article). The support for Frexit waned even further (according to Eurobarometer polls data) as Britain faced economic hardships in the wake of its decision, and by 2019 it was clear that a party coming to elections with Frexit in its program were not likely to be succesful. Thus, National Rally changed focus from outright secession to opposition to particular EU institutions and legislations they consider disadvantageous to France.

The three year-long economic downturn caused by COVID pandemic might have changed the views of the French, but public calls for Frexit are still off the table for right-wing parties during 2022 French presidential elections. However, the position of Le Pen and her party is not changed, they still view EU membership as a liability, but as politicians, they take all steps to remain as popular as possible - even if that means turning down their attacks on EU down a notch. If the polls will show public shifting their views on EU membership - they will probably push for a referendum, but not before that.

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    "...while the majority of French seem to hold an unfavourable view of EU..." Just for purposes of calibration & perspective, for what things do the majority of French seem to hold an favourable view?
    – uhoh
    Apr 12, 2022 at 6:50
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    @uhoh Cheese and wine, I suppose? Edited to make it clearer that phrase refers to poll data from 2016. Apr 12, 2022 at 6:59
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    Also, replaced the link to BBC article with the link to the report that article referenced. Apr 12, 2022 at 7:17
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    For context, the EU barometer from winter 2022 for FR reports that 47% "Tend to trust" the European Union (compared to 35/36% for the French Government/Parliament) and 44% "Tend not to trust" (compared to 60/58%). In Autumn 2015 for the UK 23% "Tend to trust" the EU (compared to 31/34%) and 63% "Tend not to trust" (compared to 64/60%) Apr 12, 2022 at 10:59
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    Slight correction: The name of The National Front (Front national) was changed in 2018 to The National Rally (Rassemblement national).
    – Fred
    Apr 13, 2022 at 4:01
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Le Pen used to favor exiting the euro zone en eventually the European Union. In the last few years her movement is however shifting towards the center, mitigating some of its more extreme positions:

Zemmour’s policy proposals have had the unintended effect of making Le Pen appear moderate. Since losing by a 2-1 margin to Macron in the last presidential runoff in 2017, she has turned down the volume on her National Rally (former National Front) party’s most extreme positions. In trying to broaden her base she no longer talks about abandoning the euro or withdrawing from the European Union.

(emphasis is mine)

Her message is now more mainstream and more pointedly anti-Macron:

Eager to steer attention away from her Russian baggage, Le Pen has focused her campaign on economic issues. It turned out to be the right move. Polls now show that purchasing power is the No. 1 concern of French voters as inflation looms and gas prices soar amid Putin’s war. She offered a sharp contrast to Macron’s sweeping technocratic vision of France and its unpopular measures like pension reform and an older retirement age. Instead, she has called for tax cuts and contrasted the economic situation of elites in cities to the struggling working classes in rural areas, where her support is strong.

In other words, while the Ressemblement National (Le Pen's movement) has not abandoned its anti-euro and anti-EU positions, this is no more their primary agenda. While Macron's statement is technically correct, it is unlikely that Le Pen would seriously pursue these goals.


The recent news confirm that right now the main target of Marine Le Pen is not the European Union, but the United States and NATO:

La candidate RN à l'élection présidentielle entend sortir du commandement intégré de l'Otan, remettre à plat les relations avec les Etats-Unis, stopper les coopérations militaires et industrielles avec l'Allemagne et se rapprocher de la Russie.

The presidential candidate from the RN intends to quit the NATO joint command, reconsider the relations with the United States, stop military and industrial cooperation with Germany, and create closer ties with Russia.

(translation is mine)

It is necessary to point out that the remarks regarding forging closer ties with Russia are dating to her program before the current events in Ukraine. The attacks against the United states have largely to do with the US systematically undermining the French arms sales, notably the Mistral Affair (which nearly led to bankruptcy and foreign takeover of the strategic Saint Nazaire shipyard) and AUKUS deal (characterized as backstubbing by the French interior minister). Grievances against Germany include recent decision by the latter to purchase American F-35 rather than French Rafales, as well as the historical grievances.

The article also notes that Marine Le Pen would like to progressively substitute the European Union by the European Alliance of Nations, the members of which would presumably have higher degree of sovereignty.

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    It is still on the list of goals, though, so a juicy target for Macron to bite.
    – jo1storm
    Apr 12, 2022 at 13:25

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