Why France also needs to leave the EU

Why France also needs to leave the EU

Driven by a strong, insular sense of their national interest, the British have traditionally managed to keep their distance from Brussels and Eurocrats, and more generally any project – peaceful or not – aiming to unify the continent. On the contrary, the French have always somehow been entangled into these projects, sometimes as the victim, sometimes as the perpetrator. In fact, large sections of the French political establishment have long considered that a United Europe could become a bigger France.

From the post-Second World War era, key French political figures pursued a relentless effort to bring Europe closer together, whilst the United Kingdom maintained a delicate balancing act between being “in” the project and “out of” it. The French effort was in fact so relentless and so removed from the reality of the opinion of French voters that they even decided not to respect the clear negative result of the referendum on the European Constitution in 2005, even shamelessly taking responsibility for imposing the Treaty of Lisbon – a barely amended version of the original European Constitution – through the parliamentary process.

Over ten years ago, on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the UPR (Union Populaire Républicaine) was created by François Asselineau, with the key objective of recovering full French sovereignty over its economic and monetary affairs as well as its foreign policy, by getting out of the EU, the euro currency and NATO. It is now the fifth largest French party by number of paying members (more than 27,000, including 130 in the French expatriate community in the UK). Today, according to Alexa, upr.fr is the most visited French party political website and our YouTube channel was the second most viewed party political channel during the presidential campaign. This online success is due to the fact that the UPR initially developed against the backdrop of a total mainstream media blackout and used public lectures and endless audio-visual creativity to convey its message.

With the advent of Brexit, despite shamelessly pro-Remain mainstream media coverage in France, French voters suddenly realised that the will of the people with regard to the EU project could be respected and that the march towards a total loss of sovereignty by France was still avoidable. As a result, speeches on the political scene, right and left, took a more defiant approach towards the European treaties. Six presidential candidates out of eleven (including François Asselineau) were openly declaring themselves as Eurosceptics, while one (François Fillon) was considered as a “closet” Eurosceptic. Only Emmanuel Macron was openly Europhile.

However, Asselineau’s stance remains unique in the sense that he was the only candidate to advocate a simple, direct, and unambiguous withdrawal from the EU project and from the euro by triggering Article 50. He truly was the “Frexit candidate”. Other parties – notably on the far-left with Mélenchon and on the far-right with Le Pen or Dupont-Aignan – have taken a cautious approach, amounting to a mere attempt at renegotiating European treaties with a view to imposing the French views on their 26 partners. The very high probability that these candidates, once elected, would be pulling a “Cameron” or, even worse, a “Tsipras” was not raised in the debates, except by Asselineau. Similarly, Asselineau was very clinical in its description of the effect of European policies on France, as required by the different Articles of the Treaty. By his mere presence among the candidates, Asselineau imposed a public debate on the future of France within the EU and was never credibly contradicted when he got technical.

Observing how the predicted post-Brexit apocalypse has not materialised and how the fall of the pound enhanced both exports and employment, gave some credence to Asselineau’s Frexit stance in the eyes of the French general public, despite his underwhelming election result (slightly less than 1%) that was partly due to his very late media exposure and widespread tactical voting for more mainstream Eurosceptic candidates. Macron’s election was a non-choice, given the unelectable nature of the National Front on the French political scene: it does not mean that the French voted for “more EU”. In fact, it is more probably the tail of a certain Europist comet.

In large part, the regular failure of Euroscepticism in the French election is due to the dominance of the unelectable Le Pen family, which arguably serves as a political scarecrow, with Marine Le Pen systematically pushing the majority of mainstream voters with Eurosceptic tendencies into the arms of her opponent or towards abstention in the election run-off. Asselineau’s approach has been about rallying French people from the whole political spectrum (from left and right, including a lot of abstaining voters and a large proportion of citizens with foreign origins) around a national liberation programme, guaranteed by a charter that avoids dealing with highly divisive issues.

Our view at the UPR is that France, being a large and still powerful country, can act independently and regain not only its independence but also become a positive and moderating influence on the rest of the world again. French elites have been talking France down over the past four decades, thereby hoping to prop up a political project that has undoubtedly failed and is now under threat and on the verge of becoming a softer neo-liberal USSR shamelessly selling itself as a force for good.

Besides, history shows that no project of European political union, using either violence or persuasion, has ever survived the assertion by Britain of its national interest. By producing radically new analyses of what the EU is really about, as well as a manifesto revolving uncompromisingly around Frexit, the UPR is ahead of its time for France, but we are confident that history will play its part in making its ideas prevail.

(Photocredit: Sebastian Fuss)