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© AFP archive

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-04-25

Leaders of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union have shunned French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, going as far as to ask the government to ban her from travelling to the UK to support the cause.

Gisela Stuart, co-chairman of the Vote Leave campaign, urged Home Secretary Theresa May to prevent the leader of the National Front party from entering the country in a letter sent on Friday.

Le Pen backs a British exit from the EU and wants France to organise a similar referendum. She has planned to travel to Britain before the June 23 ballot to express support for the Vote Leave campaign.

But Stuart and other eurosceptics don’t want her help.

“[Le Pen] has previously made many divisive and inflammatory comments, including comparing Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation of France," Stuart wrote in the letter, revealed by the BBC on Sunday.

“Accordingly, I urge you to exercise your powers under immigration legislation to refuse her admission into the country if and when she attempts to visit the UK,” the Vote Leave senior figure said.

Le Pen said she forgave Stuart’s snub because the Socialist MP was “against the European Union”, but struck back during an interview with France 2 television: “After all, she’s a Socialist. Socialists have always had a slight problem with democracy.”

“I am surprised that she didn’t say anything about [US President Barack] Obama’s visit,” the far-right leader added. “He came to interfere in Great Britain’s affairs. I am not going to interfere. If I go, I will go to speak about the people’s need to decide their relation to the European Union.”

During a visit on Friday, Obama warned voters that the UK would find itself “at the back of the queue” for a trade deal with the United States if they chose to leave the European Union.

‘Valuable support’

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage also said he thought Le Pen's presence in Britain would be unhelpful to the cause, telling Sky News over the weekend he would “rather she didn't come”.

Farage, who has shunned Le Pen in the past and accused her of “prejudice and anti-Semitism”, nevertheless said he opposed restricting her travel to the UK.

An unnamed spokesman for the Vote Leave campaign also told British daily The Independent: “We don’t think she should come...We don't think her 'contribution' to the Brexit debate is helpful.”

“Brits don't want these leaders lecturing them on how they should vote,” the spokesman said, presumably in reference to President Obama's call to keep Britain in the European Union.

Earlier, National Front Vice President Florian Philippot said Le Pen represented valuable support for Britons who wanted to leave the EU, claiming she had been “invited to go support the pro-Brexit camp”.

National Front spokesman Alain Vizier last week told FRANCE 24 that “while no date has been set”, Le Pen would “definitely be going to London” to campaign for a Brexit.

On Monday, Le Pen repeated previous claims that she wanted every country in the European Union to hold referendums on leaving the 28-member bloc.

Date created : 2016-04-25

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