In her first public meeting after a summer break in the tiny village of Brachay in northeastern France, Le Pen portrayed herself as the sole credible defender of law and order and national unity, saying the best way to combat terrorism was the ballot paper.
“This referendum on France belonging to the European Union, I will do it. Yes it is possible to change things. Look at the Brits, they chose their destiny, they chose independence … We can again be a free, proud and independent people,” she said.
The National Front was the only major French political party to call for Britons to vote to leave the European Union, hoping Brexit would boost its own eurosceptic agenda at home.
Le Pen’s increasingly popular party thrives on anti-Europe and anti-immigration sentiment and opinion polls see her making it to an early May run-off in France’s presidential election, but losing that second round to a mainstream candidate, as a majority of voters do not want her as president.
Some 700 supporters waving French flags repeatedly cheered the smiling Le Pen on Saturday, with shouts of “Marine, President” during her speech.
After being uncharacteristically quiet since a December regional election where her party won no constituency despite leading in first round, Le Pen slammed her rivals on the right and left of the political spectrum, accusing them of being “responsible” for what she called France’s “decline”.
The village of Brachay is dear to Le Pen’s heart, and she described it as the symbol of France’s “forgotten ones” away from the political elites.
It was in Brachay that she managed to secure the greatest percentage vote in any village in the country from among its 60 residents in the 2012 presidential election.
Some 72 percent put the far-right candidate above all others. She has been holding meetings in Brachay each year ever since.
EU President: ‘European Elites Detached From Reality’
The President of the European Council has slammed “detached” European elites and said the “chaos” of last year’s migrant crisis contributed to the Brexit vote, as he announced a meeting on keeping the bloc together.
“We must help people to restore faith in the fact that the EU should serve them, guarantee their protection and share their emotions,” said Donald Tusk, the former president of Poland.
“All too often today, the European elites seem to be detached from reality,” he added.
Speaking to Reuters in Luxembourg, he explained that he will be chairing a meeting of EU leaders in Bratislava on September 16, with the political consequences of the Brexit vote top of their agenda.
Repeating the position EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who has insisted the terms of the UK’s exit will not be discussed until Article 50 is triggered, said:
“We need to discuss what Brexit means politically for the European Union… It is not our intention to talk about the UK in Bratislava or our negotiation strategy vis-à-vis the UK. Our position is crystal clear: there will be no negotiations without notification.”
“There will be no secret negotiations. I have placed a presidential ban on committees engaging in discussions with representatives from the UK,” the unelected head of the EU’s executive arm said at the end of June.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly said she would not send such a formal notification until next year.
Justifying the “presidential ban” and hard stance on negotiations, Mr. Tusk said: “It is there for a reason: to protect the interests of the members of the Union that want to stay together, not the one which decides to leave.”
Mrs. May has insisted that restoring border controls will be a “red line” for the UK, but EU leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel have insisted that open borders will remain a strict condition for access to the single market.
“Our aim must be clear: Never again should we allow the chaos of 2015 to repeat in Europe,” Mr. Tusk said, saying it was no accident that immigration was at the forefront of the “leave” campaign in Britain.
(Reuters contributed to this report)