The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

First it was Trump. Now Brits want to ban French far right leader Marine Le Pen.

The president of France's far right National Front, Marine Le Pen, speaks at a news conference in Quebec City on March 20.

PARIS — First it was Donald Trump the British wanted to ban from entering their country. Now it’s Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party.

But the Brits behind this proposed ban are not the same ones who advocated keeping Trump out because they believed his comments about Muslims constituted “hate speech.” This time it's the proponents of “Brexit,” the so-called British exit from the European Union to be decided in a June 23 referendum, who want to block Le Pen.

Despite similarities between  Le Pen and British politicians who favor the idea of Brexit, its official campaign chiefs are wary of an association with the National Front. In a letter to Teresa May, the home secretary, Gisela Stuart, a co-chairwoman of the Vote Leave campaign, asked that the French leader be banned from the U.K.

This, Stuart argued, was necessary because of Marine’s track record of “divisive and inflammatory comments.” “Accordingly,” she continued, “I urge you to exercise your powers under immigration legislation to refuse her admission into the country if and when she attempts to visit the U.K.”

Marine, an outspoken critic of Brussels and E.U. bureaucracy, has championed Brexit as an idea that could one day be translated into French. She would likely use a trip to the U.K. before the referendum as a means of bolstering her own support at home and abroad.

This, for Stuart, would not be “conducive to the public good.”

Le Pen, for instance, once compared the presence of Muslims in France to its occupation by the Nazis in World War II. For many, that “Marine,” as she is known here, would even feel comfortable speaking about Nazis in the first place remains quite the mystery. Not too long ago, her now estranged father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, 86, the eternal black sheep of French political life, ventured into the waters of Holocaust denial.

In reality, what he said was more of a cannonball: The concentration camps, he said, were merely a “detail of history.”

Many who support Brexit come from an anti-immigrant perspective that would seem a natural ally for France’s National Front.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and outspoken Brexit supporter, has come under fire for rhetoric that even fellow conservatives say goes too far. Another Brexit supporter, Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, declared last week that President Obama has an “ancestral dislike of the British Empire” merely because of his Kenyan heritage.

All of this, one would think, might encourage Brexit supporters to roll out the red carpet for Marine when she comes to Britain in late May or early June. But that is not the case.

Whether Marine comes or not, it will be difficult to separate her from the cause. In a sense, it is hers as much as it is Britain's.

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