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Sunday, December 5, 2021

‘Without France the EU is dead’: Eric Zemmour wants to smash Emmanuel Macron – and Brussels too

“The numbers are awful,” he says, about migration – both legal and clandestine. Addressing it would be his number one priority, he insists. First, he says, by making France far less welcoming to immigrants who arrive legally (400,000 of them each year, he claims, though the number is fiercely disputed). “I would scrap family immigration,” says, “you have to take away all these rights they have over the state. It’s up to the state to decide who gets to come.” Asylum would be granted to “maximum a few people each year”. Illegal immigration, he says, is a “merry-go-round at the end of which they get regularised anway.” Such changes would be put to the French people in a referendum, he promises. 

As for illegal immigration, he would happily build a wall if need be, he says, echoing Donald Trump, the man he is most often compared to, though in truth with his diminutive frame, nasal voice and evident craft and calculation he is another beast altogether to the statuesque ex-president. “I congratulate Poland on wanting to build a wall,” he says. “If necessary I would close our borders with Italy, or Spain, whatever the Schengen Treaty says.” 

‘Without France, the EU is dead’

What about objections from Brussels? “Without France the EU is dead.” Brussels, he says, will bend to his will, and the will of France. Britain’s trouble in extracting concessions was that we weren’t in the euro or Schengen area, making our departure painful, but not fatal. So he fully expects to be able to “send them home” – immigrants who he has frequently blamed for “theivery, rape, killings”. It is a phrase which has a catchy ring to it in French “vols, viols, assassinats”, and is an example of Zemmour, who had a brief career in advertising, always being able find a memorable slogan – even if, as in this case as in a dozen others, it lands him before French judges on charges of inciting hatred.

He doesn’t care. In fact, like our own prime minister who, a Brussels correspondent for this newspaper, once declared that he grew addicted to outraging people (“chucking these rocks over the garden wall.. I listened to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door”), Zemmour too admits to being thrilled by controversy. In his recent book he describes being written off as “an extreme right polemicist” after broadcasting the regular political TV show which, since 2019, has made his name. Far from being downhearted, the criticism was an important triumph. “In our team, the mood was euphoric.” 

Scandal brings attention and popularity. So it’s hard to be sure sometimes if he’s serious, this bookish figure, who professes his love and deep knowledge of French history, when he makes such astonishingly bold promises: pull France out of Nato (“it’s pointless now, just there to serve the allies of the US. France isn’t America’s lapdog”); disregard the European Court on Human Rights (“I don’t want to leave the EU, but they can’t do without us.”) France under his leadership would become “a non-aligned country, as we used to say in the Cold War”.

What is sure is that, fuelled by such rhetoric, he has, from nowhere, emerged since the summer to become a chief rival to Emmanuel Macron ahead of next April’s presidential election. 

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