French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said the U.K. economy is weathering Brexit, giving her confidence to seek an immediate renegotiation of France’s relationship with the European Union if elected.
"Brexit has not been a disaster," Le Pen said at a meeting with English-language reporters in Paris on Friday. "The economic signals are good."
National Front leader Le Pen, who polls suggest will reach the presidential runoff in May, said she would seek talks with France’s EU partners "the day after my election" and put the result to a national referendum. She said the goal is to take back what she called "the four sovereignties": control of borders, economic policy, money and legislation. France should dump the euro and return to a national currency, though the exchange rate could be linked to some sort of European currency mechanism, Le Pen said.
"I’ll give six months to these talks, and if at the end we have won back our sovereignty, I will tell the French to vote to stay in this Europe of nations and liberty," she said. "If we don’t, I’ll suggest that they vote to leave."
Polls suggest Le Pen would finish second in the first round of France’s presidential elections on April 23, and lose a May 7 runoff to center-right candidate Francois Fillon. An Elabe poll released Thursday showed independent Emmanuel Macron gaining on Le Pen, taking second place in some hypothetical matchups.
Le Pen, whose party received a 9 million-euro ($8.5 million) loan from a Russian bank in 2014, said she doesn’t fear Russian meddling in France’s election. That follows U.S. intelligence findings that Russian officials directed hacking attacks to help elect Trump, whom she said she supports because his anti-globalist views were better for France.
"Every time big corporations, big finance don’t get what they want, they say it’s a conspiracy of the Russians," she said. "It makes one laugh."
While the U.S. shouldn’t lecture anyone given its history of spying on allies, improved ties between Russia and the U.S. are in France’s interest, especially if they can cooperate on combating Islamic militants, Le Pen said.
"I think that Mr. Trump and Putin can repair ties, and I hope so," she said. "We don’t want to see an increase in tensions between the U.S. and Russia for a very selfish reason: we are in the middle."
Le Pen said there isn’t much difference between Fillon and Macron, her two main opponents, because traditional political categories of left and right didn’t apply anymore.
"There’s a difference of degree, but not of substance," she told reporters. "The fracture is now between nationalists and the post-nationalists." (Bloomberg)