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Hollande Meets Le Pen to Discuss Brexit; Can France Escape a Referendum?

In the wake of the stunning Brexit vote come news that French president Francois Hollande has called for a meeting of minds to discuss a response.

Interesting, the group includes Eurosceptic party leader Marine Le Pen.

Please consider François Hollande Meets Marine Le Pen to Discuss Brexit Fallout.

François Hollande met Marine Le Pen at the Elysée Palace on Saturday in a sign of how the far-right leader has taken centre stage in France in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the EU.

Mr Hollande gathered France's most prominent political party leaders -- including Ms Pen -- for a series of back-to-back meetings as he sought to thrash out a response to Thursday's UK referendum.

The move comes less than a year before France's presidential election, in which both Mr Hollande and Ms Le Pen are expected to run. The French president was also meeting Nicolas Sarkozy, his predecessor in the Elysee and another likely candidate in next year's race.

Britain's decision to leave the EU has further raised the profile of Ms Le Pen, whose National Front has already notched up a series of impressive results in local elections.

Ms Le Pen used Saturday's meeting to reiterate her demands for a referendum on France's membership of the EU, but she said that her calls were rejected and admitted that she was left "with the feeling ".

She added that there was a clear strategy to make Britain's exit painful so as to set an example to others. "It is clear that some people want the divorce to be as painful as possible so that others don't get the idea of going down the same road as the British," she said after the meeting with Mr Hollande.

The French president is seeking to adopt a tough stance on the UK's decision -- one that would impose costs on Britain for leaving the bloc -- not least to limit Ms Le Pen's calls for a so-called "Frexit",

On Saturday, Emmanuel Macron, the French economy minister, called for a new European project to make the bloc "much more transparent and democratic", and said that it should be put to citizens via a referendum. "We have never had the courage to organise a real European referendum," he said at Paris's Sciences Po university conference. "This next project has to give it the strength."

Mr Macron took a hard line on Britain's decision to leave the EU, insisting that it was "the failure of the British government". He added: "if we [the rest of Europe] have failed, it was to have allowed a member to take the European project hostage in a unilateral way."

There were jubilant scenes in the National Front headquarters on Friday, and its leaders appeared emboldened by the result across the Channel. Florian Philippot, FN's vice-president, told reporters that Britain's decision would force the same question on French voters. "We cannot escape a referendum [in France]," he said.

Mr Philippot, who is strongly associated with Ms Le Pen's attempts to recast the party that her father founded in 1972 as a legitimate, mainstream party for the 21st century, added: "It shows the French people, first, that a referendum on the EU is possible -- and in a country that has an equivalent size to France. And it shows that you can leave. That is considerable progress in political terms."


Le Pen the Big Winner

France's most prominent political party leaders

Le Pen was the big winner in this meeting. Being invited to formulate a response gives her upgraded legitimacy.

I had to read this sentence twice "It is clear that some people want the divorce to be as painful as possible so that others don't get the idea of going down the same road as the British," said Le Pen.

When I first read it, I thought she proposed strong penalties. That would be wildly inconsistent with he call for a French referendum. On reading the sentence a second time, she was referring to others wanting a severe penalty, not herself.


Failure of Government

Macron notes the "failure of government". In doing so he sounds like Jean-Claude Juncker. Apparently only pro-EU voices can be heard.

Can France escape a referendum?

Le Pen's National Front leadership effectively says "non, non, non, et non".

Amusingly, Macron calls for a "Real European Referendum".

By all means, let's have a go at it.

I propose starting with this simple statement: "Effective immediately, all tariffs and subsidies are set to zero."

The entire body of the treaty should fit on a page or two.

 

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