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'France's next president' calls for Brexit in Vienna

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'France's next president' calls for Brexit in Vienna
HC Strache, Marine Le Pen, Harald Vilimsky and guests from the European Parliament. Photo: FPÖ
13:01 CEST+02:00
The beer flowed and the oompah music boomed in Vienna on Friday as France's Marine Le Pen, boosted by the prospect of a "Brexit", fired up a rally of European far-right "patriots" in Austria.

The elites of Europe "are scared that the United Kingdom is regaining its liberty, its freedom to trade with whom it pleases," the National Front leader told a flag-waving crowd of some 2,000 people.

Introduced to cheers as "France's next president", she said: "We want all the peoples of Europe to take back these liberties. The will of the people has to be respected."

Calling Europe's immigration policies "crazy", she called on the British "not to be swayed by the speeches of fear" on May 23 from the likes of EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

Le Pen also said it would be "indecent" for either side in the debate in Britain to capitalise on Thursday's murder of British MP Jo Cox.

The gathering was hosted by Austria's Freedom Party (FPÖ), which almost won presidential elections in May and which is leading opinion polls ahead of the next scheduled elections in 2018.

Entertainment at the Patriotic Spring provided by men in leather pants. Photo: FPÖ

"We don't want Europe to be a carbon copy of the United States... We want a Europe of fatherlands," FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache told the beered-up, smoky meeting outside Vienna.

"The new fascism comes from the left and from radical Islam," he roared to the audience in a conference centre, a huge glass pyramid, in a commercial zone in Vösendorf.

The rally -- called the "Patriotic Spring" -- was a gathering of the Europe for Nations and Freedom alliance, the nine-country European parliamentary bloc that Le Pen chairs.

It included 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.



 

Populism

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 FPÖ -- 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 is contesting the result.

At an earlier press conference with Strache, Le Pen -- expected to make a strong run for French president in 2017 -- said the French had even more reason than the British to leave the EU.

"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 said.

The strength of the Brexit camp was a "strong sign" of a popular awakening, she said.

"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.

This was the only way "to ensure a prosperous and peaceful future" in a bloc riven by "confusion and chaos".

She said that the EU elites wanted "nations to disappear to create a great uniform whole... unable to manage our own budgets, our economic policy and to decide who can come to our countries".

"But the peoples cannot be got rid of that easily," she added.

Press Conference

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

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 conference.

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 (FPÖ), 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 FPÖ -- 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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