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With far-right in turmoil, France's Le Pen softens anti-EU stance

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With far-right in turmoil, France's Le Pen softens anti-EU stance

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PARIS (Reuters) – Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has said it is possible to improve the lives of French citizens without leaving the single European currency, in a marked shift from the anti-EU stance she pushed during her failed presidential bid. Le Pen’s National Front party has been in turmoil since her heavy defeat to Emmanuel Macron in May’s presidential election, split by deep internal divisions over its view on Europe that forced the departure of Le Pen’s deputy last month. “In numerous areas it is possible to improve the daily life of the French without quitting Europe or the euro currency,” Le Pen told weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles in comments to be published on Thursday. “We have heard the French people,” she said. Her remarks are the clearest indication yet that the National Front will focus on policies around immigration and national identity, and soften the anti-EU rhetoric that cost her dear in the election. While public discontent towards Brussels has fuelled nationalist sentiment in France, in particular in rural and low income areas, opinion polls show there is little appetite for France to follow Britain out of Europe, or to drop the euro. The departure of Florian Philippot, for years Le Pen’s closest aide and a staunch advocate of an anti-euro, protectionist line, split the National Front but also paved the way to a policy change as the far-right party seeks to rebrand itself. During her election campaign, Le Pen promised a referendum on EU membership. After suffering a bruising defeat to Macron in the May run-off vote, Le Pen’s National Front won just eight seats in the National Assembly, leaving it with a weak voice and unable to form a parliamentary group. Last month, already toning down her language, she said that “national sovereignty” would be a mainstay of the party’s struggle. “We will continue to fight the European Union with all our soul because it is an instrument for the impoverishment of people,” she said in the wake of Philippot’s resignation.

(Reporting by Simon Carraud; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
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