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Pierre Moscovici, the French EU Commissioner for economics, has said that Europe must do “everything” to ensure that Marine Le Pen receives as few votes as possible in the second round of the French elections, adding that the election offers France a “referendum” on its membership of the European Union.

Throwing aside convention to publicly back Emmanuel Macron, Mr Moscovici warned against the “frightening” vote share obtained by Marine Le Pen in the first round, and said the election gives the French people “a clear choice” between “a France at the heart of Europe, and a France without Europe”.

“The good news is there is a clear choice – two visions of society. An open society versus a closed one; an open economy versus a closed one; values of openness and tolerance versus hostility and a cult of borders,” he said.

“There is one candidate who is the candidate for all the democrats and pro-Europeans. He will have my voice – I will vote for Emmanuel Macron and for Europe.”

Mr Moscovici’s comments come after the Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, extended his congratulations to Mr Macron last night, wishing him “good luck” for the second round.

Asked why he felt it was necessary for himself and the Commission to publicly back Macron – particularly when the Commission did not intervene in the UK’s Brexit referendum, Mr Moscovici said: “It’s a country at the heart of Europe which will vote on the 7th May, and we have two options so divided that we must take a position.”

Although he dismissed Ms Le Pen’s chances of winning the run-off, firmly stating she “will not be France’s next president”, Mr Moscovici warned that tensions in France were much higher than in 2002, when the FN was firmly beaten in the second round, and he bemoaned the party’s “historically high score” in yesterday’s election.

“I fear she may get 40 per cent of the vote [in the second round],” he said. “That would be a second shock. We must remain vigilant and erect a barrier against the Front National,” he said.

The Commissioner also hit out at Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who did not endorse Mr Macron last night. “Mélenchon should go further and be clearer – you cannot draw a line of equivalence between Marine Le Pen and the others,” he said.

He also lamented the fall of his Parti Socialiste, describing its result as the “most serious defeat in its existence”, and adding that it must “avoid quarrels and score settling” in order to rebuild.

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