Borrowing Brexit line, Le Pen warns of 'project fear' on euro

PARIS (Reuters) - French far-right leader Marine Le Pen stole a line from pro-Brexit campaigners in a televised debate on Monday, castigating other presidential candidates who criticized her plans to leave the euro as resorting to “project fear”.

Candidate for the 2017 presidential election Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader, arrives for a debate organised by French private TV channel TF1 in Aubervilliers, outside Paris, France, March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick Kovarik/Pool

Le Pen sought to portray Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s election in the United States as examples to follow and said these decisions did not have the catastrophic results predicted by opponents.

“This is called ‘project fear’. It was used before Brexit, it was used before Donald Trump’s election,” she said, adding that the British economy was growing faster than the EU and had lower unemployment despite Brexit.

Brexiteers like Boris Johnson, now Britain’s foreign minister, accused those who campaigned last year for the UK to stay in the European Union of using fear tactics to try to scare the British into voting “remain”.

Polls suggest Le Pen will make it into the second round of the election against independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, the most pro-European candidate among the main contenders.

Nearly three in four French people say they want to keep the euro and Le Pen is projected to be defeated easily in the runoff, although a large number of undecided voters has deepened the uncertainty surrounding the result.

Le Pen came under fire from conservative Francois Fillon, who is currently running third in the polls, who said a so-called “Frexit” would create economic and social chaos.

“The real serial killer for French spending power is Mrs Le Pen with her plans to exit the euro and restore the franc: that would spark runwaway inflation,” Fillon said in the debate.

Macron said Britain had not left the European Union yet and that its economy would soon show signs of strain.

“Those who wanted Brexit said it would be great. But they have all deserted now. They are hiding out. We’ll soon see the results,” he said.

Macron cast himself as the only candidate who would respect France’s commitments to euro zone partners.

“You can’t be for Europe and say its rules only apply to others,” he said.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Noah Barkin