Tonight, a critical TV debate between the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron, and his far-right rival Ms Le Pen will take place, just days before France goes to the polls to decide its next President. While most pollsters are projecting Mr Macron to win 52 percent of the vote, five percentage points more than Ms Le Pen, the television debate is traditionally a crucial opportunity for both parties to set out their agenda and poke holes in their opposition’s campaign. The debate has been a regular fixture of the French election cycle since the Seventies, and attracts millions of viewers.
Five years ago the same two candidates met at this stage, and the bruising and confrontational television debate that followed turned out to be the final nail in the coffin for Ms Le Pen’s campaign.
The National Rally leader, who has made a concerted effort to detoxify her far-right agenda, will be hoping to do better this time around and become the first woman to claim the keys to the Elysée Palace.
While Mr Macron has endured a tense relationship with the UK in his five years as President, French politics expert Prof Murray claimed that a Ms Le Pen victory could further diminish ties between the two countries.
Prof Murray, who is a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London, told Express.co.uk: “I think a [Ms Le Pen presidency] would further diminish Anglo-French relations.
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“Macron has not been a friend to the UK. He’s been quite happy to make Brexit as hard for us as possible because he’s pro-EU and he doesn’t want any other countries to look at the UK’s example and think it’s a good one to follow.
“There’s no love loss between Macron and the UK Government.
“But Le Pen would create a host of other problems.”
Last year the UK and France were engaged in months of diplomatic tension over how to manage fishing waters after Brexit.
Then in November, Mr Macron labelled UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson a “clown” in a bitter row over how to respond to the deaths of 27 migrants who tried to reach the UK by crossing the English Channel in a small boat.
Mr Johnson also antagonised Mr Macron after the Prime Minister signed a new security partnership with the US and Australia, upending a previous agreement the antipodean nation had made to France to buy conventional French submarines.
Nevertheless, Prof Murray noted Ms Le Pen’s approach to expats in France as well as her ties with Russia as potential sources of more serious tension with the UK.
The academic said: “One example of [the problems Le Pen will cause] is expats. She wants to get rid of all non-French nationals in the country.
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“I also think it would be a huge problem in terms of Ukraine and the withdrawal of any support to NATO ‒ that [goes against] the path that Boris Johnson’s been very keen to follow.
“And more broadly a mainstay of the UK’s Brexit strategy is to look for a stronger alliance with the US and that’s not what Le Pen wants.
“She doesn’t like the US and she’s hostile to the Americanisation of things.”
Ms Le Pen has expressed her political admiration for Vlafimir Putin in the past, while she even visited the Kremlin to meet the Russian President in the build up to the previous presidential election in 2017.
Though the National Rally leader had condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, she was one of the few Western political voices to have supported Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, while that year her party also received funding from a prominent Russian bank.
Prof Murray continued: “Up until the invasion of Ukraine she was looking to Russia for her alliances and we can’t be guaranteed that that would stop.
“It’s not politically acceptable right now to be openly pro Russia but I think generally that’s where her sympathies lie.
“She admires Putin, she agrees with Putin ideologically and I think that will make things harder for the UK in terms of its own understanding of what it means to be a player in this new world order outside the European Union.