The UK’s ambassador to France has confirmed that he will not be forging links with Front National leader Marine Le Pen ahead of the French Presidential elections, as the British government has a policy of not engaging with her party.
Appearing in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, Lord Llewellyn told MPs: “With respect to the Front National, we have a policy of not engaging, there is a longstanding policy. That is the policy, which has been the policy for many years.”
He earlier confirmed that his offices in Paris had made contact with François Fillon, the Republican candidate, and had already reached out to people within the French Socialist party ahead of the selection of their candidate.
“We know who the candidate is on the centre-right, the candidate is Monsieur Fillon, obviously we have contacts with him and his team,” he said.
“On the left we don’t know who the candidate is going to be. We will know the answer on 29 January after the second round of primaries … my team [is] in touch with people across the picture on the left.”
The chair of the committee, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, expressed surprise at the position taken by Lord Llewellyn in relation to Ms Le Pen, considering that the National Front leader is currently polling in second place nationally, and is expected to reach the final round of polling in the Presidential elections.
But Lord Llewellyn countered that any change in the government’s policy would be a “matter for ministers”.
Le Pen has spearheaded efforts to re-position her party as a populist party, standing up for French patriotism against the incursions of the European Union and liberalism into French life.
In December 2015 she stated: “The National Front is the only party to defend an authentic French Republic, a Republic with only one vocation: the national interest, the development of French employment, the conservation of our way of life, the development of our tradition and the defence of all the French.”
That message has seen her party surge in the polls, as evidenced by the 2014 European Parliament elections where the party enjoyed an 18.5 percent increase on their previous result, taking them from seventh place, and three seats, to first place with 24 MEPs.
That success has since been replicated in mayoral and local elections, putting Le Pen on course to become a serious challenger for the Presidential title later this year.