Euroscepticism in France has seen a rise in recent years as a result of the emergence of Marine Le Pen, the right wing nationalist leader of National Rally. She has been a staunch critic of the EU, previously campaigning for France to hold a referendum on its membership. Ms Le Pen never achieved this, to the relief of French President Macron, who admitted that his country would have voted to leave. Mr Macron was discussing the UK’s decision to withdraw from the bloc when he highlighted the growing anti-Brussels sentiment in his country. He said there is “always a risk” with votes such as Britain’s 2016 referendum, as it is asking the public “just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in a very complicated context”.
Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr whether a French referendum would have produced the same result, Mr Macron replied: “Yes, probably. Probably in a similar context. But our context was very different so I don’t want to take any bets.”
He added that he will fight “very hard” to keep France in the EU.
He continued: “It’s a mistake when you just ask ‘yes’ or ‘no’, when you don’t ask people how to improve the situation and to explain how to improve it.”
President Macron was speaking in January 2018 when he made the claim, and also offered his analysis for why the UK voted for Brexit.
He argued that the Leave vote was a cry for help against globalisation.
He said: “My understanding is that middle-classes and working-classes – and especially the oldest in your country – decided that the recent decades were not in their favour.
“And that the adjustments made by both [the] EU and globalisation – for me it was a mix of both of them – was not in their favour.
“And second I think one of the reasons was precisely an organisation of our EU probably which gets too far in terms of freedom without cohesion.
“Towards free market without any rules and any convergence.”
Mr Macron is a big advocate for European integration, and has regularly criticised Brexit.
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Mr Macron’s main opponent in France, Ms Le Pen, is no longer calling for a referendum on EU membership after her election defeat in 2017.
However, polls indicate that the French President may still have a battle on his hands to prevent Frexit.
A Euronews poll, released in August, showed that only Italy has more euroscepticism than France out of the ‘big four’ member states.
Italexit was backed by 45 percent respondents, meanwhile data from France showed 38 percent backed Frexit, followed closely by Spain with 37 percent.