The Facebook post notably states in uppercase letters: “The French people want out of NATO and out of the EUnion!” Since it was posted on October 29, 2023, the post has been shared more than 4,900 times and has amassed over 222,000 views. On November 3, 2023, the video was posted on YouTube with the same caption and again by the same Facebook page on November 10, 2023, this time reading: “This is the video that all Bulgarian media hid! The French want out of NATO and out of the European Union! Not a single media outlet covered it!” A similar post can also be found on Telegram.

But this claim is misleading. Even if euroscepticism is high in France, French advocates of leaving the EU remain a minority in the country, according to polls and experts.

Screenshots from posts on Telegram (left) and Facebook sharing misleading information. Taken on November 14, 2023

The man who tears the flags is Florian Philippot, the former vice-president of the far-right party National Rally (till 2018 known as National Front) who later left to establish another party, The Patriots, in 2017. In the 2019 European Parliament elections, Philippot’s movement garnered only 0.65% of the vote. In the 2022 general election, the party was part of a coalition, but Philippot did not make it to parliament.

In the video, Philippot stands on a platform built on a small truck parked at Pont du Carrousel and Quai Voltaire in Paris. He tears down the EU and NATO flags before raising the French flag. The people around him can be heard chanting “Frexit,” which refers to the hypothetical scenario of France exiting the European Union, similar to Brexit for the United Kingdom.

On October 7, 2023, a video was posted by Philippot’s verified Facebook profile showing the scenes we can see after the timecode 00:43 of the misleading video: Philippot and another man tear the EU flag and then raise the French one. The chants of the people and the words of the far-right politician match in both videos.

Side-by-side comparison of a still frame of the video shared with the misleading post (left) and the one posted by Philippot’s Facebook profile (right)

The October 7, 2023 Paris demo was announced on the Facebook page of The Patriots.


Around 1,000 people attended, according to police


A representative of the Paris police told AFP on November 2, 2023, that 1,000 people participated in the October 7, 2023 demonstration. “There were several thousand of us, in line with our usual numbers over the last few months. But we don’t have an exact count,” a representative of The Patriots told AFP on November 5, 2023.

However, the October 7 rally was relatively small compared to other recent demonstrations or marches in the French capital. According to police, 105,000 people joined the rally against anti-Semitism in Paris on November 12, 2023, and around 15,000 people attended a pro-Palestinian rally in Paris on October 22, 2023. On September 23, 2023, 9,000 people marched against police violence in Paris, according to the French interior ministry. On June 26, 2023, 56,000 people participated in the Paris Pride event, police said.

A photograph shows protesters marching against anti-Semitism in Paris on November 12, 2023.

How popular is Frexit ?


“The French are critical, defiant and sometimes sceptical about the EU’s institutions and its ability to function democratically, but there is no existential questioning of the EU,”  Eddy Vautrin-Dumaine, a France representative of the Public Kantar Centre for Europe, told AFP on November 10, 2023. According to its website, this centre brings “pan-European analysis and opportunity for debate on the social, cultural, economic, political and environmental challenges facing the European Union and its member states.” Kantar conducts the Eurobarometer surveys (herehere) for the EU Commission and the EU Parliament.

“When the French are asked whether they think France’s membership of the EU is good, a majority think it is. Fifty-four percent think it is a good thing, compared with 15 percent who think it is not a good thing,” he said. “When asked if it was important for France to be part of the EU, 58 percent thought it was important. When asked if France would be better off in the future if it were outside the EU, 55 percent think that France would not be better off if it were outside the EU. And 58 percent consider themselves EU citizens,” Vautrin-Dumaine added.

However, “while there is no desire to leave the EU, nearly one French person in two is dissatisfied with how democracy works within the EU,” he further explained. “Only a minority of French people have a good image of the EU and the European Parliament, and they [the French people, ed.] are among the citizens who have the least confidence in the EU. So there is still a certain amount of tension, as well as a lack of understanding and knowledge about the EU,” he concluded.

To understand how widespread the idea of Frexit in France is now, AFP also contacted Christian Lequesne, a professor at the Sciences Po Centre for International Studies in Paris, who deals with topics such as the EU and its future.

Asked if it is fair to say that the French population favours Frexit, he replied that that was a “huge exaggeration” and that “very few people think that”.

“There are some activists, of course. But they are rather microscopic parties like Francois Asselineau’s party [Asselineau is the president of the Popular Republican Union, a small party that claims to be a “national liberation movement”, ed.] or Florian Philippot’s party. But in general, there is very little support for Frexit in France,” he told AFP on November 1, 2023.

He added that within the National Rally (RN), which is popular in Bulgaria, the idea of Frexit is “no longer very present (…) The RN is more in favour of reviewing the EU from the inside, for example, by sending MEPs to Parliament.”

Оn the left, he points at the far-left France Unbowed: “There are some very eurosceptic speeches about the fact that we need to overhaul the contract completely, but there is no talk of a complete exit from the EU either.” France Unbowed leader Jean-Luc Melenchon came third in the presidential election of 2022, and later his block posted a strong performance at the general election.

According to Lequesne, the French middle class does not favour Brexit “quite simply because leaving the EU could mean destabilising the economy, losing the value of my property, etc”. Another reason is that “we’ve had feedback from Brexit: everything circulated about Brexit and what it meant for the British is pretty negative, especially in France.”

According to a survey published by the US-based think-tank Pew Institute in late October 2023, 57 percent of French people have a favourable opinion of the EU, while 41 percent have an unfavourable one.

A photograph taken on March 10, 2022 shows the European Union flag flying under the Arc de Triomphe, on the Place de l’Etoile in Paris, to mark the EU leaders’ Versailles summit on March 10 and 11. ( AFP / Ludovic MARIN)

Polls: majority of French see NATO as important


The post also claims that “the French” want their country to leave NATO. This analysis from the Madrid-based think-tank Real Instituto Elcano, published in February 2022, explains why “France’s policy vis-a-vis NATO has always been ambivalent”.

However, according to this survey, published in July 2023 and commissioned by the alliance, 62 percent of French respondents said they want their country to remain in NATO.

The latest surveys show that “a majority of French people would vote to keep their country in NATO in the event of a referendum. Again, there is no desire to leave,” Vautrin-Dumaine told AFP.

Kantar also conducted a study on transatlantic relationships for the German Marshall Fund, published in September 2023. On page 35, we see that almost 70 percent of the French people think that NATO is important for the security of their country.

“The French have understood that NATO can play a role in security and protection, so they don’t want to leave,” Vautrin-Dumaine said.

“In my opinion, there are slightly more people in France in favour of leaving NATO [than those in favour of leaving EU, ed]”, Lequesne said, giving as an example the first round of the 2022 election and the program of the far-right Eric Zemmour.“The far-left doesn’t like NATO either because they’re, like Zemmour, anti-American.”

But there are some nuances: during his presidential campaign, Zemmour said he wanted France to withdraw from NATO’s integrated military command, as De Gaulle did in 1966. The same for Marine Le Pen.

Asked if people who are in favour of leaving NATO could form a small majority, Lequesne said: “It’s hard to say”. However, he pointed out that because of the war in Ukraine, positive sentiment towards NATO had grown among the French population: “many French people have realised that if it hadn’t been for the massive military aid from the US and NATO, the Ukrainians wouldn’t have been able to hold out as they did, even though Ukraine isn’t in NATO.”

In April 2022, AFP already debunked claims misrepresenting a video from Corsica as showing a Frexit demo.

Rossen Bossev

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