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Far right's Le Pen calls for French EU membership referendum next year

Reuters/Vincent Kessler

As Eurosceptics gain election victories in Britain and Italy, French far-right leader Marine Le Pan has called for a referendum on France’s membership of the European Union at the beginning of next year.

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Buoyed up by a British by-election that showed the eurosceptic Ukip leaping into second position and comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement winning 25 per cent of the vote in Italy’s general election, Le Pen has repeated the demand for a referendum that

she made during last year’s presidential election … but this time she has put a date on it.

“In January 2014 we will be at a crossroads,” she declared on Saturday. “We will be at a moment where the French should be able to choose and I demand that the president of the republic allows them to do so.”

If President François Hollande does not give in to her call, Le Pen’s Front National will turn next year’s European parliamentary elections into a referendum, she added.

Le Pen scored 18 per cent in the first round of last year’s presidential election, winning support in crisis-hit rural areas and small towns.

As well as opposition to "excessive" immigration, one of the major planks of her campaign was hostility to the European Union.

She came second to IMF chief and former economy minister Christine Lagarde in an opinion poll to pick France’s most popular female politician published by the Journal du Dimanche paper on Sunday.

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