Anti-EU Marine Le Pen said in March that she would be an “ally” to Britain during the tense and no doubt troublesome Brexit divorce negotiations that will soon get underway.
She also hit out at the European Union’s “blackmail and threats” to the UK, some of which have come from current French president François Hollande who has said previously “Britain must pay the price for Brexit.”
“What I cannot stand in the behaviour of the EU with regards to Great Britain is blackmail, constant threat,” Le Pen said in an interview with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
“It's Europe in a very forceful way; Europe imposed by [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel.” Le Pen said.
It’s easy perhaps to see why some Brexiteers in Britain believe the best result for them in the French elections would be Marine Le Pen, rather than pro-Europe Emmanuel Macron who has followed a similar line to Hollande and even urged British talent and French expats in the UK to head to France.
A Le Pen win, Brexiteers believe, could land a potentially critical blow to the EU.
That's because Le Pen is committed to taking France out of the euro and the Schengen border deal. If Brussels does not bow to her demands to restore “economic and territorial sovereignty” to France then she will hold a referendum on EU membership.
Polls however suggest the French are still in favour of remaining both in the EU and the single currency.
Emily Mansfield, Europe Analyst from the Economist Intelligence Unit told The Local that if Le Pen were to win “it would not be good news at all for Britain's Brexit negotiations”.
“The other EU member states would see a Le Pen win as a potentially existential threat to the bloc, especially coming on the heels of the Brexit vote, and would react by digging in their heels,” she said.
“They would present a united front, making clear that being outside the EU must necessarily be inferior to being inside, in order to dissuade Eurosceptics elsewhere, and to convince French citizens that in the event of a referendum they should vote to stay in the EU,” Mansfield said.
“In other words, there would be a much more pressing need, from the perspective of all 26 other EU members, to make sure that Britain suffers the results of Brexit.
“Of course, Britain might feel that its position was bolstered by being in line with that of France — but whether the British establishment would feel comfortable aligning itself with a far-right French president is another question, particularly given the impact this might have on its relations (and indeed negotiations) with the other EU member states.”
For his part François Fillon, who may yet still triumph, has said in the past he wants the Brexit divorce to be “serene” and “fast”.
But he warned “We cannot leave the town house but still benefit from the roof, room and board.”
He also said Britain should lose its crucial financial passport.
With Le Pen still unlikely to the win the French election, despite the fact she should qualify for the second round, Britain’s chances of smooth Brexit negotiations now depend far more on their own elections in June, rather than on those on this side of the Channel.