What happens if Marine Le Pen wins the French election?
The anti-EU populist leader of the Front National is expected to go head to head with centrist Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the French presidential election next month.
If she triumphs, it would be another political earthquake as right-wing populism sweeps across Europe in the wake of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election win.
The anti-immigration politician has dubbed herself Madame Frexit and has promised to call referendums over France’s membership of the EU and the eurozone.
But Emily Mansfield, lead France analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, argues that Ms Le Pen's victory would not actually lead to Frexit and the return of the franc.
“Concerns about what a what a Le Pen victory might look like are a bit overblown,” Ms Mansfield said, adding that it was extremely unlikely to bring down the EU.
The analyst said a Le Pen victory would prompt EU officials to all themselves all sorts of existential questions about what it meant for the future of the EU.
But as time went on, she said: “I think people would start to understand that it would be very difficult for her to call a referendum.”
She argued that Ms Le Pen was unlikely to get enough support from Parliament to hold referendums on either EU membership or the eurozone.
In order to call a referendum without parliamentary approval, Ms Le Pen would need to get approval from constitutional courts which are also likely to block it.
There is a strong vein of Euroscepticism in France but an Elabe poll from March 2017 found that only 28 per cent wanted to quit the euro and return to the franc.
Ms Mansfield predicted that most French people would vote against leaving the eurozone and the EU because the economic risks were simply too big.
Compared to Britain, she added: “Being part of the EU is much more ingrained in the French identity. The UK has always been more of an outsider.”
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She said that the National Front leader will not make any progress on Europe, not much progress on the economy but only a bit on social issues.
Ms Mansfield said: “It would be a political shock. There would be a lot of questions about what it means for French politics.
“But I don’t think that she would be able to do very much in power. She is not going to get a parliamentary majority.”
Things you didn't know about Marine Le Pen
Wed, April 5, 2017
Marine Le Pen is a French politician who is the president of the National Front, a national-conservative political party in France and one of its main political forces.
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Described as more democratic and republican than her nationalist father, she has led a movement of "de-demonization of the Front National" to detoxify it and soften its image
After the second round of the presidential election in May, international attention will turn to the parliamentary elections in June.
Even though Ms Le Pen supported Brexit, Ms Mansfield argued that her victory in the election would not help the UK to get a better EU exit deal.
“I think if Le Pen were to win, we would see a huge amount of concern in the rest of the EU about the bloc breaking apart,” the analyst said.
“In that scenario, the EU would take a harder line on the Brexit talks… Le Pen can be supportive but she would not be able to have a casting vote in the EU.”