France's far-right National Front party cheers Brexit, calls for 'Frexit' referendum on EU

France's far right National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen has called for a French referendum on EU membership on June 24.
France's far right National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen has called for a French referendum on EU membership on June 24.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - France's far right National Front party called for a French referendum on European Union membership on Friday (June 24), cheering a Brexit vote it hopes can boost its eurosceptic agenda at home.

"Victory for freedom!" said FN chief Marine Le Pen, who displayed the British flag on her Twitter page. "We now need to hold the same referendum in France and in (other) EU countries."

Her deputy Florian Philippot said it was now France's turn to vote to leave the EU. "The liberty of peoples always wins in the end! Bravo to the United Kingdom," he wrote on Twitter. "Our turn now #Brexit #Frexit."

The anti-immigrant, anti-euro FN was the only major French political party to call for Britons to vote to leave the EU.

 

Since taking over from her father Jean-Marie as FN leader in 2011, Ms Le Pen has reworked the image of the FN to make it more mainstream. The party has done better, election after election - in the first round.

But it still loses in run-offs, and now controls less than a dozen small and medium-size municipalities.

Analysts, but also a few FN top officials and allies have said its protectionist, anti-euro policy, was partly to blame for this by putting off key older voters.

Britain's Leave vote can go a long way to help it overcome this, Ifop pollster's analyst Frederic Dabi said. "It's good news for Le Pen because the European issue was one of the key drags on FN voting," Mr Dabi said.

"Older voters, executives, feared a leap in the unknown because of its anti-EU stance. But the UK is setting a precedent. If it goes well there, it will make the FN's stance look much more mainstream."

Usually omnipresent in French media, Ms Le Pen had become largely silent over the past few months after suffering a huge disappointment in regional elections in December.

The Brexit vote could well throw her back on the front scene.

Ms Le Pen had said last month that if she won next year's French presidential election, she would immediately start negotiations with Brussels on a series of sovereignty issues including the single currency. If those failed, she would ask voters to back leaving the EU in a referendum, she said.

Ms Le Pen is the front-runner among likely candidates ahead of the 2017 presidential vote. However, polls see her losing the run-off.