Apr 21, 2017 - World

How Marine Le Pen could take France out of the EU

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The first round of the French presidential election is this weekend and far-right populist Marine Le Pen has been near the top of the polls. She's likely to make it to the second round, where most pundits expect her to lose — just like Brexit and Donald Trump.

Focus on this: If Trump's victory taught us anything, it should be that Le Pen certainly might win the French presidency. But Trump taught us something else — talking the talk is easy, but following through once in power can be much harder. Le Pen's call to destroy the "anti-democratic monster" of the EU works well as a sound bite, but implementing it won't be easy.

Le Pen's plan upon assuming the presidency, from her manifesto:

  • A 6-month negotiation period to revamp France's place in the EU and roll back its influence — ending the visa-free Schengen Zone and giving nations an option to revert to their own currencies.
  • After 6 months, Le Pen would hold a referendum to leave the EU, only recommending against Frexit if her desired conditions are met.

Tougher than it sounds: Frexit would be more difficult than Le Pen lets on because France's participation in the EU is codified in its constitution.

  • In order to amend the constitution, Le Pen would need both houses of Parliament to approve an amendment. To make it official, she can either send it back to a joint session of Parliament that requires 60% approval or, per her promise, put it to the people in a referendum.
  • But Le Pen's National Front has just 4 members of Parliament right now — 2 in the National Assembly and 2 in the Senate — out of 925 total seats. Barring landslide gains in June's legislative elections, it's borderline inconceivable that she could get a Frexit amendment approved in both houses, let alone secure 60% of the votes in a joint session.

An alternative path: Charles de Gaulle circumvented the constitutional procedures surrounding referenda in 1962 when he took the question of a direct presidential vote to the people. He utilized a section of the constitution that allows the prime minister — selected by the president — to request a referendum on the basis of "the organization of public powers." There's now a constitutional provision requiring such changes to go in front of a constitutional council, but that might be a fight Le Pen would relish.

  • Will she hear the people sing? The European Commission's latest Eurobarometer says that 29% of French are positive about the EU, 39% are neutral, and 31% are negative, but when faced with the stark question of leaving the EU last month, 66% of French citizens said they'd stay in.

Go deeper

Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

8 hours ago - World

The president vs. the Pentagon

Trump visits Mattis and the Pentagon in 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.

New York Times says Tom Cotton op-ed did not meet standards

Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A New York Times spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the paper will be changing its editorial board processes after a Wednesday op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which called for President Trump to "send in the troops" in order to quell violent protests, failed to meet its standards.

Why it matters: The shift comes after Times employees began a coordinated movement on social media on Wednesday and Thursday that argued that publishing the op-ed put black staff in danger. Cotton wrote that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act in order to deploy the U.S. military against rioters that have overwhelmed police forces in cities across the country.