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French presidential debate live: Macron and Le Pen clash in election face off

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen clash over EU

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen have clashed over the far-right leader’s links with Russia in a live television debate ahead of the upcoming election.

The incumbent president said Ms Le Pen was “dependent on Putin” and called Russia her “banker” as he launched into fierce criticism over a loan taken from Russian bank in 2014.

The National Rally leader denied her independence was compromised by this.

The two candidates also clashed over energy – in particular renewables – and Muslim headscarves in public spaces, with the Mr Macron saying Ms Le Pen’s plans to ban them would start a “civil war”.

Polls suggest that Mr Macron, a pro-European centrist, has a growing and significant lead over Ms Le Pen, an anti-immigration nationalist, ahead of the weekend vote. But the result is expected to be closer than five years ago.

Bookmakers said more than a quater of French voters were waiting until the debate to decide who they would vote for or whether they will vote at all on Sunday.

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Emmanuel Macron’s final remarks

We are now into the final remarks.

Emmanuel Macron says he opposes Marine Le Pen‘s politics and her party, but says: “I respect you as a person.”

He dedicates the last part of his final speech to “our children” and says he wants to build a better world to “better protect them”.

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 22:48

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Marine Le Pen final remarks

Marine Le Pen says she wants to address the “people” and she wants to restore “common sense”.

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 22:53

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And now onto immigration…

Marine Le Pen says she wants a referendum on immigration – a topic she has been famously tough on.

Throughout this presidential election campaign, she has pushed for ending family reunification policies, restricting social benefits to the French only, and deporting foreigners who stay unemployed for over a year and other migrants who entered illegally.

Emmanuel Macron has also proposed measures to limit immigration, including strengthening external borders of the European passport-free area and creating a new force to better control national borders. He also wants to speed up processing of asylum and residence permit applications and to deport those who aren’t eligible.

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 22:38

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Le Pen Muslim headscarf policy ‘would create civil war’, Macron says

One of the hosts has now asked about Muslim headscarves in public.

Marine Le Pen starts going on about an “extremely present” terrorism risk and says she wants to fight against “islamist ideology”.

The host says she did not answer the question about headscarves, to which she replies she wants to ban them in public spaces.

Emmanuel Macron says such a law would be a “betrayal” of the French spirit and speaks passionately about freedom.

He also confuses her of getting “things confused” by mixing up religion and radical islamism.

Ms Le Pen also said: “I think the headscarf is a uniform imposed by Islamists.” She said: “I think a great proportion of young women who are wearing it have no other choice in reality.”

Mr Macron replied: “What you’re saying is very serious. You’re going to create civil war if you do it.”

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 22:28

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More key quotes from debate

Climate and energy

“There is no way out of fossil fuels that relies solely on nuclear. Your strategy is not workable.”

“Even though we have energy needs today, you are not telling me how we will cope with moving beyond fossil fuels, how we will reduce our dependence on Russian gas.”

“I am in no way a climate change denier. But you, your are something of a climate hypocrite.”

“Free trade kills the planet.”

“You have completely changed your tune on nuclear power… We have wasted 10 years destabilising a nuclear industry that needed to be strengthened to make this carbon-free energy source once again the basis for our energy mix.”

Pension and retirement age

“I don’t want to increase our taxes, I don’t want to increase our debt, I even want to start paying it off over the next five years. So I want us to work more, a pillar of which would be to push back the legal retirement age by four months a year until we reach 65 in 2031.”

“All those who had their first proper job before the age of 20 will be able to retire at 60.”

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 22:15

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Clash over hydrogen

The two have clashed over hydrogen. Marine Le Pen says she wants to make “green hydrogen” from nuclear.

Emmanuel Macron says this is not what the country’s nuclear capacity is for. He also tells her hydrogen “is not an energy source” itself.

Some are mocking this idea from Ms Le Pen on social media:

“To be honest, she should have responded to ‘how do you produce hydrogen?’ with ‘soak it in oil, soak it in water’, she would have almost appeared more competent to me’

As well as the exchange between the two on hydrogen:

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 21:51

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Debate turns out to be more heated than expected

It had been suggested the debate could be relatively boring, with both candidates wanting to give a solid – rather than combattive – performance.

But it has been pretty heated so far, with the candidates accusing the other of getting stuff wrong and interrupting each other.

”Are you joking or what?” Emmanuel Macron just said when Marine Le Pen was talking about energy.

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 21:44

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Energy

Emmanuel Macron says the only way to deal with the climate crisis is nuclear and renewable energy together.

“We shouldn’t make the errors of the past,” he says.

Marine Le Pen has vowed to push nuclear but scrap subsidies for solar and wind energy.

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 21:39

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Environment

Now we are onto the environment – and the two are exchanging blows.

Emmanuel Macron calls Marine Le Pen “climate-sceptic”. The far-right candidate calls the president a “climate-hypocrite”.

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 21:32

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Macron retirement plans ‘an injustice’ – Le Pen

The two candidates have also clashed over the retirement age, which has been a much-debated topic during the election.

Emmanuel Macron wants to increase it to 65, which Marine Le Pen called an “injustice”.

Zoe Tidman20 April 2022 21:26

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