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France has more reason to leave EU than Britain: Le Pen

France has even more reason than Britain to leave the EU, far-right National Front head Marine Le Pen said Friday six days ahead of Britain's referendum, calling for a Europe "a la carte".

France has more reason to leave EU than Britain: Le Pen
Photo: AFP
Speaking before a meeting in Vienna of other “patriotic” European parties, Le Pen also said it would be “indecent” for either side in the debate to capitalise on Thursday's murder of British MP Jo Cox.
   
“France possibly has a thousand more reasons to want to leave the EU than the English,” and all bloc members “need to question their relations with the EU,” Le Pen told a news conferrence.
   
The strength of the Brexit camp ahead of the June 23 on whether to leave the 28-nation bloc was a “strong sign” of a popular awakening, she said.
   
Le Pen, who expected to make a strong run for the French presidency in 2017, also warned British voters not to be swayed by predictions of “the most unimaginable catastrophes” if Britain leaves the EU.
   
If elected next year, Le Pen has declared she would become “Madame Frexit” and call a referendum on France's EU membership within six months.
   
Appearing with Heinz-Christian Strache of Austria's Freedom Party (FPOe), Le Pen said Europe needed to be more “a la carte” with members able to can pick-and-choose areas of closer integration.
   
“We want to spread this idea of Europe 'a la carte' that some countries have already attained, like Denmark… and Britain of course,” she added,  saying it was the only way “to ensure a prosperous and peaceful future” in a bloc riven by “confusion and chaos”.
   
Le Pen was in Vienna for a “Patriotic Spring” event with the Europe for Nations and Freedom alliance, the nine-country European parliamentary bloc that she chairs.
   
Among those expected to attend the event later on Friday were Lorenzo Fontana of Italy's Northern League, Marcus Pretzell from Alternative for Germany (AfD), Gerolf Annemans from Belgium's Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) and former UK Independence Party (UKIP) member Janice Atkinson.
   
Populist parties across Europe and beyond have gained traction in recent years, with their alarm over immigration and attacks on the political “elite” resonating strongly with voters.
   
In Austria, Norbert Hofer of the FPOe — who welcomed Le Pen to Vienna with a kiss on her hand — last month came close to being elected to the largely ceremonial but coveted post of president. The party has contested the result.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.

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