YVON BRIANT, a notable figure in French conservative and right- wing politics, was a self-made man, almost in textbook fashion. He was born at Lesneven, near Brest, in 1954 into a working-class family, and worked as a professional soldier with a parachute regiment before becoming a military diver with the base at Aspretto. On leaving the army he started a business in Dunkirk (a seabed construction company) and later became the director of a private security company.
Briant was an early member of the elite extreme right-wing think- tank the Club de l'Horloge which provided an intellectual backing for the resurgence of the right in the 1980s and provided many of the intellectuals who joined the National Front. From 1978 to 1983 he was a member of the neo- Gaullist RPR (Jacques Chirac's party) but he quit in search of a more vigorous opposition to the socialist government. In 1985 he joined the Centre National des Independents (CNI, an old conservative formation, then somewhat marginal) and worked to revive it. He became its secretary-general in 1987 and its president in 1989.
In 1986 Briant was noticed by Jean-Marie Le Pen (who was then in search of a more respectable parliamentary face for the National Front) and, still a member of the CNI, he was put at the head of the National Front list in the Val-d'Oise in the 1986 legislative election. He was elected to the Assembly but in July 1986 he fell out with Le Pen and was evicted from the National Front and afterwards sat as an independent. In the 1988 presidential elections he supported Chirac, the RPR candidate. In 1988 he declined to stand for the Val-d'Oise and moved instead to Bonneville in the Haute- Savoie, a constituency with many small business interests which he rather expected to win. However he was defeated in elections to the Assembly by the mayor, who received combined backing from the centrist and neo-Gaullist right.
Briant's political career faltered, but he was elected a regional councillor for Val-d'Oise in March 1991. In 1989 he was elected to the European Parliament on the centre-right ticket led by Valery Giscard d'Estaing. He sat in the European Democratic Alliance group of which he was a vice- president and in the European parliament he was a substitute member on the political affairs committee and a full member of the legal affairs and citizenship rights committee.
Briant was campaigning in Corsica for support for the Maastricht treaty in the French referendum when his plane crashed, killing him, his wife, his young son and the pilot.