French far-right National Front (FN) party former member of parliament Marion Marechal-Le Pen speaks during the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxen Hill, Maryland, on February 22, 2018
JIM WATSON - AFP/Getty Images
By Tessa Berenson
February 22, 2018

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a rising star in the French far-right movement, drew explicit parallels between her worldview and President Donald Trump’s when she took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

“I’m not offended when I hear President Donald Trump say ‘America first,'” Maréchal-Le Pen said Thursday. “In fact, I want America first for the American people, I want Britain first for the British people, and I want France first for the French people.”

Maréchal-Le Pen, 28, is the niece of French far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, and known to be more socially conservative than her aunt, the Guardian reports. She’s a former member of the French parliament and announced last year that she was taking a break from politics.

But Thursday she returned to the political stage, at least in America. CPAC 2018 is a rowdy, public display of the Republican identity crisis, TIME’s Phil Elliott writes. And Maréchal-Le Pen’s presence is a prime example. Last year, CPAC struggled to grapple with the rise of the alt-right, kicking out white nationalist Richard Spencer from the event and canceling right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos as a keynote speaker. But the alt-right in America rose as a movement against traditional American conservatism, inspired more by the European far-right. So bringing budding French Front National leader Maréchal-Le Pen shows CPAC hasn’t fully grappled with divides in conservatism.

Maréchal-Le Pen spoke of needing to fight for the “survival” of France under the European Union; mention of the EU drew boos from the audience. And she hit many similar themes about nationalism that Trump did on the campaign trail, decrying political correctness and an influx of immigrants to her country. “This is not the France that our grandparents fought for,” she said. “Just like you, we want our country back.”

Maréchal-Le Pen approvingly cited Trump’s victory in America as evidence that her strain of conservatism can win back France, too. The 2016 American election showed that “when the people are given the opportunity to take their country back,” she said, “they will seize it.”

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