Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, was one of the few European politicians to celebrate Britain’s decision to exit the European Union. In an interview with TIME, she explains how she plans to use the Brexit example to pull France out of the E.U.—and why she is so sure she will succeed.
You said Brexit is the biggest thing in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Is this the end of the E.U.?
Yes, this is the beginning of the end of the European Union. And I hope the birth of the Europe of nations, a Europe of cooperation, that we’ve been propounding for years. The European Union is objectively a total failure. It’s a social failure, it’s an economic failure, it’s a failure in terms of power, it’s a diplomatic failure. They are doing exactly what they did in the Soviet Union. When the results were not in line with expectations, [the Soviets] would say it didn’t work because there was not enough Communism. And the European Union is the same. Each time there is a failure they say it is because there is not enough Europe. The British people have just said ‘stop. For us it’s the end. It’s over.’
What is the path for you between now and the French exit from the E.U.?
In order to organize the referendum I need to win the presidential elections [next year]. I’m the only major candidate that has proposed a referendum, and that has been since four years ago, since before [U.K. Prime Minister David] Cameron, that I suggested organizing a referendum. I would go to the European institutions, I would demand for the French people four sovereignties: territorial—our borders; monetary and budgetary; economic; and legislative. Either the European Union says yes to me, or they would say no, and I would say to the French, there is no only other solution but to leave the E.U.
In your opinion the E.U. cannot be saved or reformed?
Was the Soviet Union reformable? I would say no. They said, ‘okay the Soviet Union isn’t working,’ They would say, ‘no it’s great. We just need democracy, political pluralism, private property.’ And then there was no Soviet Union. The European Union is the same.
How has Brexit changed your political prospects in the French presidential elections next year?
With each day that passes we are shown to be right. Every day that passes validates the analysis that we have put forward these past years, often very alone, often very much against everyone, very often mocked, insulted. The Brexit has given a new demonstration. They told us that it was not possible to leave the E.U. The British people just showed that yes, it is possible. So, we’ve taken note. They joined together to demonstrate against the system. The people in fact wanted to get out. And me, I say, that in many other countries in the E.U., people also want to get out.
Currently the polls say you wouldn’t win a referendum to get France out of the E.U.
Oh really? I don’t know that, myself. That is what people said in Britain. Hah.
What’s the ideal relationship now for the U.K. with the E.U.?
A neighboring country that must go through commercial agreements with the European Union. The E.U. has agreements—and worse than that, free trade agreements—with more than 30 countries in the world: Colombia, Mexico, Albania, Algeria, the Farro Islands… Great Britain is at the same time our neighbor, a European country, and in terms of its economy mostly structured in the same manner, like the big European countries. There is no justification to reject this agreement, except if they want to punish Great Britain, unless they want to avenge Great Britain. But there again would be profoundly anti-democratic. Voilà.
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Aside from France, who else will want to get out of the E.U.?
It depends on the elections. We don’t know. I don’t know what might intervene. The signal that has been launched is a real deep upset of conscience. Because the idea, again, the argument that it is impossible to leave the E.U., that was hammered over years and years, that has just collapsed as a result of the act of conscience that has been taken by the people against the European Union.
Why did the British vote to leave the E.U.?
Freedom, the right to decide for themselves. Immigration, undeniably. Social dumping organized by the directive of free movement of workers. I think these were three elements. And perhaps the cost of the E.U., because it costs a lot every year. I think these were the elements.
Does the Brexit change everything for you?
It doesn’t change everything. It’s a validation of the political engagement fought with deep conviction, under conditions that are very difficult. The system is ranged against us, I have to tell you. In France you will not find a single media outlet who is for a referendum. Not one. Not one. Not one political figure. Not one media. Not one party. Not one trade union. It’s not easy to fight within those conditions. But when you have a good thing that happens like that [the Brexit] obviously, it’s a moment of joy. Because it is gives energy to continue.
What’s your prediction for 10 years from now for Europe?
I think within 10 years the European Union will be deconstructed. There will be these buildings, these meetings, these nations. We will work together in work groups on projects. Like Ariane [the E.U. space program], or Erasmus [E.U. student exchange program]. These are projects that have nothing to do with the European Union, the single market. It will be what I call a Europe of cooperation. Some people will find a project and circulate it, and some will say, I like this project, others will say I don’t like it, I don’t want to participate.