“Frexit” stirs concern across EU

Friday, 2017-03-17 11:41:00
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Le Pen’s stance over liberation from the EU amidst the FN candidate is gaining ground in the French presidential election, a cause of concern for EU supporters. (Credit: Reuters)
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NDO – Concern about a "Frexit" scenario (France leaving the European Union - EU) is growing in Europe as French far-right Front National (FN) Party President, Marine Le Pen, who has advocated for France to leave the EU, is increasingly gaining ground in the race to become the next President of France. After Brexit (when the UK left the EU) last year, "Frexit" would put the EU at risk of folding due to greater challenges.

Dubbed "Donald Trump of France," Le Pen, with her campaign’s stance putting France first, is gaining support from many voters in the race to the Elysee. She has repeatedly stated that if she is elected President, she will hold a referendum on France’s liberation from the "sinking ship" that is the EU. Thus, if Le Pen wins the election, it is likely that Europe will witness the scenario of "Frexit".

It is worrisome for EU supporters that Le Pen is strengthening her lead in the race to become the head of France. The results of recent polls show that she may take the lead in the first round of the French presidential election.

The latest happenings reveal that Le Pen’s position has been strengthened due to her rivals continually landing in trouble. Francois Fillon, the Republicans (LR) candidate has been considered as a "fallen horse" as on March 14, his lawyer confirmed that he has been formally charged with multiple crimes related to a scandal involving paying his wife and children hundreds of thousands of euros for allegedly "non-existent" jobs in the parliament.

Meanwhile, another of Le Pen’s major rivals, Emmanuel Macron - the leader of En Marche, is also in trouble. The Paris prosecutor's office opened a preliminary investigation over the former French Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry on charges of suspected favoritism surrounding a consumer electronics event in Las Vegas, the US in January 2016. Sources from Western media reported that the so-called "French Tech Night" event was conducted in a hurry, at the request from the office of the former minister. Accordingly, the French side gave the French communications group Havas the right to hold the event instead of conducting the usual organised bidding.

According to recently released poll results from Kantar Sofres, Le Pen and Macron will be the two candidates to qualify for the second round of the French presidential race. However, the scandal mentioned above may stop Macron and facilitate his rival.

The credit rating agency Moody's said that the risk of France leaving the EU and withdrawing from the Eurozone after the upcoming presidential election is not high but is becoming more likely as Le Pen has an advantage in the French election and she has stated that under her presidency, France will withdraw from the EU and the NATO.

In an interview with Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun on March 13, Le Pen said she would conduct a referendum on "Frexit" within six months after being elected. She even announced her willingness to resign as president if the French did not support her and wanted to stay in the EU. She stated that "Frexit" would be a part of her policy and she would try to persuade other countries to leave the EU. According to her, if France leaves the EU and the Eurozone, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Greece and Cyprus should do the same.

In its statement concerning the forecast of French election results, Moody's emphasised that the possibility of a "Frexit" scenario is unlikely. Moody's argues that unless there is a sudden change of focus, the upcoming debates among candidates will focus on economic growth and budget use, not on the "Frexit" issue.

However, after the UK’s Brexit and the US presidential election in 2016 it just goes to show that unexpected things do happen. In the context of the UK’s determination to leave the EU, the stagnant economic situation in France in particular and Europe in general, in addition to the impasse migration crisis, Le Pen’s win in the French election and “Frexit” would prove a great challenge to the EU’s unity.