After Britain voted for Brexit in 2016, Brussels feared it could trigger a domino effect in several of the bloc’s eurosceptic member states. However, in the last couple of years, it became apparent the populist movements from countries across the bloc that once advocated quitting the EU are now almost all looking to reform it from within. Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s League Party, who once called for the “corrupted” bloc to die, has now endorsed Mario Draghi, the former President of the European Central Bank, as his country’s new Prime Minister.
Even eurosceptic figurehead Marine Le Pen, who was once in favour of France leaving the EU, has claimed right-wing politicians within the bloc should try to “radically modify” Brussels.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Ms Le Pen’s special adviser, French MEP Philippe Olivier, has shed light on her vision for a “reformed Europe”.
He said: “When Marine Le Pen gets into power we will change the way the EU functions.
“The EU claims it defends the interests of 27 countries by making all kinds of arrangements for them.
“We believe every country should be allowed to defend its own interests individually.
“It means we will give power back to the nation states, as no individual nation should be forced to accept policies that are against their own interests.”
He added: “We believe that cooperation within Europe is cooperation between states. But the EU should not impose itself as a state.
“We are not against Europe but we are for a diverse Europe.”
When asked why Ms Le Pen changed her mind on Brexit, Mr Olivier said: “Historically, we were for a Frexit.
“But we were rather alone in Europe then.
“Today, the equilibrium has changed within the EU.
“We have been joined by many countries and the group representing our ideas has 76 members of Parliament in Brussels.
“But even outside of our group of 76 members, we have people who are close to our ideas in other groups, such as EEP.
“The balance is changing in Europe.”
Ms Le Pen has recently come within reach for the first time of beating French President Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 election.
The Harris survey published last month suggested Ms Le Pen is close to breaching the “glass ceiling” of French politics.
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The barrier was based on the longstanding assumption that an absolute majority of voters would never back a far-right candidate.
If the next year’s election was staged now, Ms Le Pen would have 48 percent of the vote, with Mr Macron on 52 percent, according to the poll carried out online on January 19 and 20.
The four-point difference, which is within the margin of error, compared with a June 2020 Ifop poll that put Mr Macron at 55 percent and Ms Le Pen at 45.
In 2017, Mr Macron, who at the time was a debutant politician running as an independent candidate, crushed Ms Le Pen with 66 percent to her 34 percent.
Jordan Bardella, her 25-year-old deputy, congratulated the National Rally President, writing on Twitter: “Marine Le Pen has confirmed that she is capable of winning in 2022.
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“May all energy and goodwill come together to conquer victory.”
In another interview with Express.co.uk, German MEP Gunnar Beck also welcomed the poll, explaining how much of a difference Ms Le Pen could make in Europe if elected French President.
Mr Beck argued the eurosceptic could revolutionise Brussels and put an end to EU integration.
He said: “In terms of EU policy, France is the most important country in Europe.
“Some say it is Germany, but they are wrong. We saw it during the eurozone crisis.
“Generally, the French have prevailed.
“If Le Pen became President, there would be enormous change… particularly on subjects like migration.
“On the euro, there will be a different approach and there will be a recalibration.”
Mr Beck also claimed her election would be a shock for the extreme integrationists and “a huge boost for the eurosceptics”.
He added: “Most importantly, it will put a stop to the process towards an ever closer union.
“It could be the most important event of European history in decades and it will fundamentally upset the Germans.
“Even more than Donald Trump’s victory in 2016.”
The first round of the presidential election is due to take place in April 2022.
The second round is held two weeks later between the two candidates who receive the most votes.