French election: Macron defeats Le Pen to become president

Emmanuel Macron was elected France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon last night after beating his far-Right rival Marine Le Pen in an 
emphatic result that will have far-reaching consequences for Brexit and Europe.

Projections gave 39-year-old Mr Macron almost two thirds of the vote, showing a clear path to the Élysée Palace for the pro-EU centrist who was a political unknown until three years ago and has never held elected office.

Addressing the nation, a sober Mr Macron immediately reached across the divide to Le Pen voters, saying he heard the "anger, anxiety and doubts" that many had expressed.

But he did not shy away from his internationalist, pro-EU agenda, saying: "I will defend Europe; it is our civilisation which is at stake...I will work to rebuild ties between Europe and its citizens."

Later Mr Macron took the stage to the strains of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the European Union anthem, in the courtyard of the Louvre museum.

He said France was facing an "immense task" to rebuild European unity, fix the economy and ensure security against extremist threats. “Europe and the world are waiting for us to defend the spirit of Enlightenment, threatened in so many places,” he told the crowd, as his his wife Brigitte and their extended family joined him.

Theresa May discussed Brexit with Mr Macron in a phone call late last night, Downing Street said. The Prime Minister "reiterated that the UK wants a strong partnership".

“France is one of our closest allies and we look forward to working with the new president on a wide range of shared priorities,” the statement said.

Mr Macron is expected to drive a hard bargain over Brexit, striking a strident note during his campaign by warning that negotiations would be “no walk in the park” and that Britain would be left in “servitude” as a result of leaving the EU.

However, the result was welcomed by some senior Conservatives who argued Mr Macron would bring much-needed stability to Europe ahead of the Brexit negotiations.

“We don’t want to be negotiating with an EU in existential crisis – which it would be if Le Pen had won,” said Crispin Blunt, the Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs select committee.

European leaders rushed to welcome the victory of Mr Macron who had flown EU flags at rallies throughout his campaign and has promised to lead a ‘rebirth’ of the European project.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, had a “very warm” call with Mr Macron, his team reported while the German chancellor called his election a “victory for a strong, united Europe”.

Ms Le Pen’s party had made it clear they were gunning for at least 40 per cent of the vote. She failed to achieve such heights, but her performance maintained her record of improving the Front National’s score in every election since she became leader in 2011

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