In France Polar opposites: The issues that divide Le Pen and Macron

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who go head-to-head in the second round of France's presidential election on May 7, are diametrically opposed on issues ranging from immigration to Europe to gay marriage.

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French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are at odds on many issues play

French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are at odds on many issues

(AFP/File)
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Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who go head-to-head in the second round of France's presidential election on May 7, are diametrically opposed on issues ranging from immigration to Europe to gay marriage.

Here is where they stand on the key questions:

Europe

Le Pen has insisted on the need for France to drop the euro single currency and leave Europe's Schengen visa-free travel zone.

She says she will hold six months of negotiations on returning powers from Brussels to national capitals after which she will hold a "Frexit" referendum on France's membership of the European Union.

She also opposes the CETA trade deal between the EU and Canada.

Macron, a former banker and economy minister, has run an unabashedly pro-European campaign. He wants to bolster the eurozone by setting up a separate budget for the 19 countries that use the common currency.

French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are deeply divided on France's place in Europe play

French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are deeply divided on France's place in Europe

(AFP/File)

He also proposes giving the zone its own parliament and finance minister.

Macron also wants Europe to strengthen its external borders by setting up a common border force, pool more of its defence forces and impose higher tariffs to protect European industry from unfair competition, particularly from China.

He is generally supportive of international trade deals and backs the treaty with Canada.

Immigration

Le Pen has vowed a temporary "moratorium" on long-term legal immigration until quotas can be worked out. She wants to reduce net migration -- the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving -- to just 10,000 and bar illegal immigrants from gaining residency.

She would make it harder to qualify for asylum and curtail policies that let migrants bring relatives to France.

Marine Le Pen has vowed to sharply curtail immigration while warning against Muslim extremists play

Marine Le Pen has vowed to sharply curtail immigration while warning against Muslim extremists

(AFP)

Foreigners convicted on terror charges or any other crime would be automatically deported, and she would abolish a law that allows children with migrant parents who are born in France to gain French citizenship.

She would also toughen laws on conspicuous religious symbols, extending a ban on Muslim head scarves, Christian crosses, Jewish skullcaps and other symbols to all public places. She would also ban the Islamic burkini swimsuit.

Macron has said he would not look to prohibit religious symbols outside of schools, nor ban the burkini. He has championed diversity and vowed to give tax breaks to companies that hire young people from tough predominantly immigrant neighbourhoods.

He has pledged to speed up the review process for asylum requests to a maximum of six months, including appeals.

He has praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her generous policy to asylum seekers that has seen more than one million new arrivals since 2015.

Labour and retirement

Both candidates have said they would keep France's official 35-hour work week, adopted by a Socialist government in 2000, but Macron, a liberal, has promised to give companies more freedom to negotiate working time directly with employees.

Le Pen wants to lower the retirement age to 60 years old from 62, while Macron wants to unify a complex web of retirement rules for various public and private-sector employees, while maintaining the current retirement age.

Emmanuel Macron, a former banker, is running an unabashedly pro-European campaign play

Emmanuel Macron, a former banker, is running an unabashedly pro-European campaign

(AFP)

He also wants to give the self-employed access to unemployment benefits but suspend benefits for qualified workers who refuse two "decent" job offers.

To rein in the budget, Macron wants to cut 120,000 civil servant jobs, though hospitals would be spared, while also creating 10,000 police jobs and 4,000 to 5,000 teaching posts.

Le Pen advocates more civil servant jobs at the national level and for hospitals, but fewer jobs managed by French regional authorities. She also wants 21,000 more police and customs officials.

Taxes

Le Pen would impose a 35-percent tax on goods by companies that move production outside France, and also add a new tax on groups that hire foreign workers, as part of her "national preference" policy.

She would cut income taxes by 10 percent for the lowest-earning households, and drop France's plan to withhold income tax from monthly earnings starting next year -- currently the French pay tax on income the year after it is earned.

Macron wants a three-year suspension of residents' taxes for 80 percent of French households.

He also wants to turn France's so-called "solidarity" wealth tax on people claiming more than 1.3 million euros ($1.4 million) in assets into a tax on real-estate wealth, which would exclude financial assets.

Le Pen has said she would leave the wealth tax untouched.

Energy, education, family

Macron has pledged to cut France's reliance on nuclear energy to 50 percent of its total electricity needs by 2025, from about 75 percent now.

Le Pen has been a staunch defender of nuclear power, and would halt France's efforts to develop wind power.

In education, Le Pen would impose a uniform for all public school students and roll back a controversial reform meant to make French school days shorter.

Macron wants to give schools more autonomy in terms of hiring and cut primary school class sizes in half in low-achieving and poor areas.

He would also ban the use of cellphones in elementary schools.

Le Pen wants to scrap a 2013 gay marriage law and replace it with a new form of civil partnership. She would also restrict medically assisted procreation to couples unable to have children naturally. Macron wants lesbian couples to also have access to fertility treatment.

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