UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has taken one step closer to backing Front National candidate Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections in 2017, declaring that if Ms. Le Pen wins, the European Union project will collapse entirely.
Mr. Farage, who has been known to harbour concerns about the Front National as a party, told the Sunday Express newspaper that he will be backing the “utterly respectable Eurosceptic” France Arise candidate in the first round.
But he also hinted that in the second round, which his preferred candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan is unlikely to reach, he may back Ms. Le Pen in order to bring down the EU.
“I know her. She’s very determined, brilliant on TV. I mean absolutely brilliant,” he said, before adding: “When you watch her making her argument and you can see her getting into it she is really good at it. There’s lots of baggage and that’s the problem.”
The baggage he refers to is the Front National’s history.
Founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father, the party hosted some unsavoury characters and Mr. Le Pen himself has been the subject of repeated controversy given his statements minimising the Holocaust amongst a number of other allegedly anti-Semitic comments.
But Ms. Le Pen has sought to move the party away from her father’s legacy, provoking a huge public row as a result.
Speaking of his changing position on Ms. Le Pen, Mr. Farage said: “It depends what the circumstances are, you’ll have to ask me in April. I have never said a bad word about her but I have never said a good word about her party and that’s where I am with this – it’s slightly awkward.”
U.S. and UK news organisations are quick to label both Mr. Farage and Ms. Le Pen “far right”, as CNN did just this week, moments after Mr. Farage had appeared on the network.
But UKIP and the Front National have never sat together in the European Parliament, with Mr. Farage leading the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group, and Ms. Le Pen leading the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group.
Mr. Farage has sought to keep his party away from nationalistic parties from across Europe in the past, but sees them as a major opportunity to kill off the European Union for good.