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French presidential hopeful targets UK expats to win primaries

CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT | AFP | Getty Images

There is another crucial presidential election on the horizon with just as many divisive characters: France. And the primaries for the 2017 election are already kicking off.

On the table, there are many issues: terrorism, high unemployment, rigid labor market laws and the rise of nationalism. Incumbent President Francois Hollande has a lot to be concerned about, mainly when his popularity levels rank the lowest among all serving presidents.

Although Hollande has yet to throw his hat into the ring, opposition parties are starting to pick their candidates. The center-right party, Les Republicains, is putting up five nominees – one of them being the former president Nikolas Sarkozy - and any French citizen can to vote on November 20th and 27th .

CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT | AFP | Getty Images

The primaries are especially relevant given that its winner will be crucial to sustain support against the far-right National Front party. Polls show that the party led by Marine Le Pen – who wants to quit the EU - will get the most votes in the first ballot to the presidency.

In an attempt to convince French expats to have a say in the center-right party nomination and increase his odds of winning, Francois Fillon, one of the five contestants, spoke at the Royal Institution in London Thursday evening.

"France needs a deep transformation," he told an audience of French expats.

Former prime minister of France, Francois Fillon has a tough battle ahead. He is only placing third in the forecasts for the center-right nomination and votes from French expats could be a significant boost.

His main opponents are Nikolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppe, also a former prime minister, who bookmakers believe is the most favorite to represent Les Republicains.

"France needs to decrease the cost of labour, not only on low qualified jobs, but on all kinds. France sees precisely a decrease in the quality of its economy because of those politics," Fillon said to the London audience.

Fillon wants to make France more investment-friendly.

"[Tax on capital revenue] is 30 percent in Germany, it is 60 percent in France. How can we have French investors with those conditions?," Fillon said.

It is also among his policies to restore trust in the public authorities following the terrorist attacks, to reduce the number of deputies in parliament.


French expats feel insecure over Brexit

The French community in the U.K. reaches an estimated 300,000 people, the Financial Times reported, with more than 3000 French businesses employing nearly 400,000 people in the UK. But such numbers could be negatively affected depending on how Brexit negotiations unfold.

"In the short-term, Brexit is good because I am saving money," a Parisian student at King's College told CNBC Thursday. "But in the long-term, I am quite worried about the need of a visa."

"The trust [between French people and the U.K. government] has been broken. There was a contract we would be treated as regular citizens," a French citizen, based in the U.K for five years told CNBC.


Marion Lory contributed to this article.

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