On Sunday, amid the fallout of the British vote to leave the EU, former French President Nikolas Sarkozy, the leader of the center-right Republicans party, proposed a French referendum on a new European Treaty. Meanwhile, former Sarkozy cabinet minister and Republicans’ member Alain Juppe seemed to suggest that such a move would be ‘irresponsible’.
In a Sunday interview with the French television channel France 2, Sarkozy suggested that a French referendum on a new European treaty could be possible before the end of the year, adding that “we must not be afraid of the people.” In apparent response, speaking to Le Monde on Monday, Alain Juppe suggested that “holding a referendum in France today would be totally irresponsible.”
Asked whether the apparent divergence of opinion indicates a split in the party, Republicans MEP Constance Le Grip told Sputnik that Mr. Juppe’s remarks have been misunderstood.
“Mr. Sarkozy reintroduced his proposal to reform the European Union,” the politician said. “After the victory of Brexit, it’s impossible to pretend that nothing happened. We must return to a new project, given that the people no longer support the current European project. The new treaty would be ratified in France only by referendum.”
As for Mr. Juppe’s comments, Le Grip explained that “when Alain Juppe said that it would be irresponsible to hold a referendum at the moment, he was not speaking of the referendum proposed by Mr. Sarkozy. Mr. Juppe was referring to the referendum of the kind which just took place in the UK, the one which Ms. Marine Le Pen is insisting on: on membership in the European Union. Such a referendum would be totally irresponsible, and Mr. Sarkozy agrees with this view.”
At the same time, Le Grip explained, like Sarkozy, Juppe “also advocates for reform: for the reform of the European project.”
On Sunday, speaking to Le Journal du Dimanche, and commenting on the political situation in Europe following Brexit, Sarkozy said that if he was the French leader in the present situation, he “would suggest that France and Germany put on the table to the heads of state and government [of the European Union] a draft five-point plan prohibiting the Brussels technocracy from turning into a legal monster.”
He added that he would propose that the leaders of the 27 EU member nations gather for a three day meeting with the aim of jointly developing a “simple, clear” project and policy, including a Euro-Schengen II and the harmonization of social assistance for foreigners, requiring five years of residence to qualify and no benefits for illegals.
Perhaps most significantly, Sarkozy suggested that the new basic treaty, put up to referendum, should limit “Europe’s powers to a maximum of ten strategic priorities.” Finally, the new treaty would need to “clearly say that the enlargement of Europe is finished,” ending “the hypocrisy which prevails today in our relations which Turkey, which is not intended to enter Europe.”
On Friday, soon after the results of the Brexit referendum became clear, Sarkozy suggested that “the European Union can no longer function as before. Its deep restructuring is urgent and had to be considered long ago. In this regard, I call on the EU heads of state and governments to decide to devise a new basic treaty, which will demonstrate to our people that Europe is ready to take their destiny into their own hands.”
On the eve of the Brexit referendum, the politician insisted that a joint Franco-German initiative would have to be made “in the coming months,” regardless of the results, aimed a fundamental rethink of the EU project.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, speaking with major French opposition leaders about the results of Brexit, President Francois Hollande met with Front National leader Marine Le Pen, who asked him to hold a referendum similar to that held in the UK on France’s future in the supranational union.
“We have called for the implementation of a referendum to ask the French if they want to remain in the European Union. He said no,” Le Pen told journalists, adding that she was disappointed with the president’s remarks. “It’s almost as though we said a dirty word; the people have really become the last wheel of the cart.”
On Thursday, the UK held a referendum to determine whether or not the country should leave the EU. According to the final results, 51.9% of voters, or 17.4 million people, decided to support Brexit, while about 16.1 million opposed it. Total voter turnout was 72.2%.