France election: Macron says EU must reform or face ‘Frexit’

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Media captionEmmanuel Macron pledges EU reform if elected

The front-runner in the French presidential election has told the BBC that the EU must reform or face the prospect of “Frexit”.

Pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron made the comments as he and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen entered the last week of campaigning.

French voters go to the polls on Sunday to decide between the pair.

Ms Le Pen has capitalised on anti-EU feeling, and has promised a referendum on France’s membership.

She won support in rural and former industrial areas by promising to retake control of France’s borders from the EU and slash immigration.

Emmanuel Macron

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Emmanuel Macron

Marine Le Pen

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Marine Le Pen

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Last updated April 25, 2017

*Polling results up to this date show how people said they would vote on 7 May, if Macron and Le Pen reached the second round

The polling average line looks at the five most recent national polls and takes the median value, ie, the value between the two figures that are higher and two figures that are lower.

“I’m a pro-European, I defended constantly during this election the European idea and European policies because I believe it’s extremely important for French people and for the place of our country in globalisation,” Mr Macron, leader of the recently created En Marche! movement, told the BBC.

“But at the same time we have to face the situation, to listen to our people, and to listen to the fact that they are extremely angry today, impatient and the dysfunction of the EU is no more sustainable.

“So I do consider that my mandate, the day after, will be at the same time to reform in depth the European Union and our European project.”

Mr Macron added that if he were to allow the EU to continue to function as it was would be a “betrayal”.

“And I don’t want to do so,” he said. “Because the day after, we will have a Frexit or we will have [Ms Le Pen’s] National Front (FN) again.”

Image copyrightReuters
Image caption Jean-Marie Le Pen attended an FN May Day rally near the Joan of Arc statue in Paris

Both Mr Macron – who is leading in the polls by 20 percentage points – and Ms Le Pen will hold rallies in Paris later.

The pro-business Mr Macron will seek to highlight his appeal as a future-orientated innovator by speaking at a modern convention centre near the La Villette science complex in north-east Paris, Agence France Presse reports.

Ms Le Pen will take her case as “the people’s candidate” to the working-class suburb of Villepinte, the agency adds.

Traditional May Day protests are also expected. Trade unions are taking to the streets to urge voters to block the FN, while FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen attended a march from the statue of Joan of Arc, a long-time FN icon.

Jean-Marie Le Pen was kicked out of the FN by his daughter two years ago for repeatedly calling the Holocaust a “detail of history” – remarks which were preventing Marine Le Pen from putting distance between the party and its past links with anti-Semitism.

Sunday was France’s national day of remembrance for the French Jews who were deported to Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Image copyrightEPA
Image caption Marine Le Pen has won support from people unhappy with the EU

Mr Macron visited Paris’s Holocaust memorial to pay his respects, while Ms Le Pen laid a wreath at the World War II monument in Marseille.

But the war remains a difficult area for Ms Le Pen. She suggested earlier this month France was not responsible for a 1942 wartime round-up of 13,000 Jews, who were sent from France to Nazi death camps.

Meanwhile, Jean-François Jalkh – the man she named as interim president of the FN while she campaigned – was forced to step down on Tuesday amid claims he had questioned the reality of Nazi gas chambers, which is a crime under French law. He denies wrongdoing.

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