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France’s president says 'all European nationalists are hidden Brexiteers'

French President Emmanuel Macron. (Via Reuters)

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has said that "all European nationalists are hidden Brexiteers," who aim to pull their nations out of the European Union.

"I say to Europeans: Wake up. Wake up! They are hidden Brexiteers. All European nationalists are hidden Brexiteers. It's all the same lies," Macron said in an interview with the Economist published on Thursday.

Macron sounded the alarm about far-right nationalist politicians as Europeans head to elections next month to choose their representative in the European Parliament for another 5-year term.

He said if Europe wanted to become a great power, it was a mistake and there was "no reason" to choose nationalist representatives.

Macron said choosing far-right nationalists for representation in the European Parliament was like hiring “robbers" and entrusting them to run a bank.

"Make no mistake. If you entrust the keys to people who think like they do, there is no reason why Europe should become a great power," he insisted.

"In a way it's as if we were saying it's not a problem if we entrust the bank to robbers. When they are around the table, they take Europe hostage."

Macron, who runs a centrist alliance, said the only way to stop the rise of nationalism was by “being bold enough not to think that their rise is inevitable." 

For example, Macron said, the far-right French National Rally (RN) party "wanted to pull out of Europe, out of the euro, out of everything."

The nationalist RN party is "reaping the benefits of Europe while wanting to destroy it," he said, adding, "And that's true in every country."

“What kills me, in France as in Europe, is the spirit of defeat. The spirit of defeat means two things: you get used to it and you stop fighting,” said Macron.

“The second is ‘what’s-the-pointism’, cowardice. People look at the polls, but polls don’t make politics. It’s your ability to get things done that does. And so everyone says that nationalism is on the rise. Obviously, that’s simpler. But nationalists are distorting the European debate.”

He pointed to the negative impact that the Brexit (Britain’s 2016 decision to pull out of the European Union) had on the UK, saying, “Brexit has impoverished the United Kingdom. Brexit has done nothing to solve immigration in the UK. Well, despite that, some people think it doesn’t look so bad, but nobody dares to say that anything is wrong. And so nobody is taking responsibility for anything.”

He cited the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni as another example, saying her Brothers of Italy party pursued "a European approach" and "supported the asylum and immigration pact". However, "after that, the best way of building together is to have as few nationalists as possible."

Regarding the war between Ukraine and Russia, Macron, who in February made a stir when he first refused to rule out sending ground troops, reiterated that he was “not ruling anything out.

Macron said the question of sending French troops to Ukraine would “legitimately” arise if Russia broke through Ukrainian lines.

He claimed he was issuing a “strategic wake-up call” to his European counterparts to be weary if the Russians ever decided to pursue expansionist policies in the European Union.

The European Parliament elections in the EU are scheduled to take place from June 6 to 9.

The 27 EU countries have the elections on different days; for example, the Netherlands has elections on Thursday while people in France will head to polls on Sunday.

The 720 members of the European Parliament represent the interests of the approximately 450mn EU citizens at the European level.

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