Marine Le Pen pledges to work with Britain in Brexit negotiations
Far-right French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen has indicated she would be an ally to Britain in Brexit negotiations and hit out at the European Union's "blackmail and threats" to the UK.
The highly controversial National Front leader, who has been forced to deny her party is racist, said France and Britain should have "excellent relations" if she wins in the spring and becomes president.
France is seen as a key power-broker in the EU alongside Germany, but Ms Le Pen's warm words may not be welcomed by Prime Minister Theresa May, given the long-standing UK Government policy not to engage with her.
Ms Le Pen made the comments in an interview with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage on LBC radio.
She was asked by Mr Farage if the EU's hardline stance on Brexit was putting the interests of Brussels above French workers, given her country's trade links with the UK.
She replied: "There is no reason not to take the British decision in our stride and work with Great Britain in negotiations that will take place between two nations that have had long-standing trade relations for centuries."
Ms Le Pen criticised the "forceful" EU stance "imposed" by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, including potentially tough Brexit negotiations with the UK.
" I see no reason why France and Great Britain should not have excellent relations. We are old allies and economically speaking as well, we have a great many exchanges to implement," she said.
"What I cannot stand in the behaviour of the EU with regards to Great Britain is blackmail, constant threat."
She went on: "It's Europe in a very forceful way; Europe imposed by Merkel and I believe that between two nations such as ours that really go back and that would be free if I am elected; both would be free and we would have excellent relations as well as trade relations of very good quality, as in the past."
Ms Le Pen has promised to attempt to radically renegotiate France's relationship with the EU if she becomes president and then hold a referendum on its membership, with signs pointing to a potential "Frexit" if she wins.
Mr Farage went on: "Do you see, is there potential in the case of the United Kingdom for us and France to have a trade deal together (if France leaves the EU)?"
Ms Le Pen replied: "Well, obviously there is potential."
She added: "I am not the person who is going to build walls to prevent trade. On the contrary, I think that France should conquer the world economically but the euro is a major handicap."
Ms Le Pen also dismissed the concerns over the rights of EU nationals in the UK and British expats in Europe amid the backdrop of Brexit.
She said: " Quite obviously, after Brexit nothing will happen to French citizens living in Great Britain and nothing will happen to British citizens living in France and who have homes in France.
"Having your own migration policy does not mean not having any foreigners on your territory. It means having demands with regards to people living on your territory.
"When people live on our territory and are not criminals, if they don't dispute our laws, our ways of living, our customs, our values and so on, I see no reason why we should not continue to welcome them in the French style."
:: The full interview with Marine Le Pen will be broadcast on Wednesday from 7pm on The Nigel Farage Show on LBC.