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7th Aug 2020

French far-right calls for EU referendum

France’s far-right National Front party has called for an in/out referendum on the EU at the same time as the UK holds its vote.

Florian Philippot, an MEP and the party’s deputy head, wrote on Thursday (28 May) that president Francois Hollande should “follow the British example” and “follow the calendar outlined by our neighbours across The Channel”.

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“The time has come to ask everybody in Europe Yes or No - if they want sovereignty to decide on their own future”.

He added that British PM David Cameron, who is currently on a tour of European capitals to sound out feeling on a renegotiation of EU powers, “with this referendum … has put himself in a powerful position to demand real reforms”.

He also said that if Hollande declines to do it, the National Front will put an in/out EU vote “at the heart” of its 2017 presidential election campaign.

Speaking on BFM-TV earlier in the week, Philippot noted that his party wants a “referendum republic”, in which average people can trigger a popular vote on any subject if they file more than 500,000 signatures.

He cited Switzerland as a model and listed French membership in Nato, in the Schengen passport-free area, and the EU-US free trade treaty as other potential votes.

For its part, French daily Le Figaro, in an Ifop poll published on Friday, said 62 percent of French people would vote No to the EU constitution again if they were asked the same question as 10 years ago.

The eurosceptic and anti-immigrant National Front came first in France’s EU elections last year, with 25 percent of the vote, and again in local elections earlier this year.

But the Ifop poll gave mixed results on the EU.

It noted that 62 percent of people want France to have full control over its budgetary and fiscal policy and 60 percent want to quit Schengen.

But 59 percent also want the EU to create a “finance minister” post, while 71 percent want France to stay in the euro.

Sixty percent of French people are also in favour of a directly elected EU president; 71 percent support having a joint EU army; and 62 percent think French EU membership is, overall, a “good thing”.

For its part, the ruling Conservative Party in the UK, also on Thursday, published the question it plans to ask by the end of 2017: "Should the UK remain a member of the EU?".

Cameron visited France, the Netherlands, and Denmark in the past two days.

He said after meeting Hollande: "The status quo is not good enough ... I believe there are changes we can make that will benefit not just Britain, but the rest of Europe, too".

The French leader noted: "We think it's in the interest of Europe and in the interest of the United Kingdom to be together but the people must always be respected".

The British demands are expected to include curbs on internal EU migration, on welfare for EU migrants, and on UK opt-outs from EU financial regulation.

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