‘France first, then Europe!’ Le Pen in stern attack on Macron and EU over Covid shambles

Emmanuel Macron: Polls show Marine Le Pen's popularity rising

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The National Rally leader lashed out against Brussels and the French President in a swipe at the bloc’s failure to handle the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking to French TV France 3, Ms Le Pen said that her party would always put France ahead of the EU’s collective interests.

She said: “The Nation is the most efficient framework for ensuring the safety and protection of the French.

“This is the great lesson of the health crisis.

“Unlike Macron, I say ‘France first, Europe then’.”

The eurosceptic politician will face President Macron at next year’s presidential elections.

The French President’s popularity rate fell by four percentage points from February, with only 37 percent of people now saying they are satisfied with their leader.

Mr Macron has faced criticism for a comparatively slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and his overall handling of the pandemic.

Paris and other areas in France entered a new lockdown last week, which some say should have been implemented earlier to put the brake on the third wave of infections.

The French President has vowed to postpone new restrictions for as long as possible and called a lockdown a last resort.

The next presidential elections are scheduled for April 2022, and current polls show Ms Le Pen as Mr Macron’s number one rival.

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France also has regional elections coming up in June, although the government has warned they will only happen if the health context allows it.

As support for the President continues to dwindle, unearthed reports suggest things could get significantly worse for Mr Macron.

Across Europe, the coronavirus pandemic forced one of the most intense periods of state intervention seen in decades.

France was one of the countries best prepared to act, given its long history of economic state intervention and the strong ties between the bureaucracy and industry.

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However, the country’s national debt is now expected to reach unprecedented levels this year.

According to figures obtained by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as of 2021, French government debt reached an equivalent of 118.6 percent of French GDP.

Economists have warned this number is expected to get worse, reaching 120 percent by the end of the year.

The IMF figures show France’s debt is running behind the UK’s, which stands at 111.5 percent, Germany’s, which stands at 72.2 percent and the Netherlands’, which is currently 61.1 percent of the country’s GDP.

Mr Macron said the additional “Covid debt” would be corralled in a separate account and paid down over the very long term.

However, while financing debt is not a problem for France, the burden and high pre-crisis levels of public spending do narrow Mr Macron’s scope for manoeuvre.

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