In France, President Emmanuel Macron has been humiliated after members of parliament first rejected his immigration proposal and then passed through one more akin to the plan proposed by his long-time political opponent, Marine Le Pen. In The Spectator, Gavin Mortimer explains Macron’s humiliation, writing:
Marine Le Pen celebrated what she called “an ideological victory” on Tuesday evening after Emmanuel Macron’s government finally had its controversial immigration bill approved.
It was a day of jubilation also for the center-right Republicans, who had formed the bulk of the negotiating team that forced the government to toughen parts of the bill to make it more acceptable to them.
The bill was initially thrown out of parliament last week after the left and the right came together in an unprecedented show of solidarity to inflict a humiliating defeat on the president. They did so for different reasons: the left because they regarded the bill as “racist and xenophobic” and the right because they saw it as too lax.
The amended bill is more stringent than the first version, to the delight of the right and the despair of the left, including many Members of Parliament within Macron’s Renaissance Party. Throughout a dramatic day, there were rumors that as many as seven ministers might resign in protest at the bill but by the end of Tuesday only one had tendered his resignation: health minister Aurélien Rousseau.
He was unable to accept the bill, a key element of which is a clampdown on welfare benefits for immigrants. In future these will be available only for foreigners who have been living in France for five years, or thirty months for those in employment.
Migration quotas will also now be agreed in parliament each year and measures will be introduced to strip criminals with dual nationality of their French citizenship.
The bill’s issue that caused the greatest divergence between the left and the right was the granting of residence permits to illegal immigrants working in sectors such as construction and hospitality; the right said this was an open invitation to mass migration, and they got their way. A permit will be issued if the worker has lived in France for at least three years and has been in paid employment for at least twelve of the last twenty-four months.
There is no doubt in the French media that this is a victory for the right, particularly Le Pen, who, according to Le Figaro, outmaneuvered her opponents. They didn’t think she and her eighty-seven National Rally MPs would vote for the bill — no matter how it was amended — but when she declared on Tuesday afternoon they would because it signaled an “ideological victory” for her party, it plunged Macron’s party into a crisis. How could they ever be seen to vote with a far-right party, they wailed?
As ministers threatened to resign and other MPs signaled their determination to vote against their government’s bill, Macron summoned several key lieutenants to the Elysée. He urged them to vote for the bill in enough numbers to ensure they were not reliant on Le Pen’s votes to have it passed.
Macron’s influence worked and the bill was comfortably passed late on Tuesday evening by 349 to 186. Of Macron’s party, 189 voted for and sixty-two either abstained or voted against.
The Socialists, Greens and Communists voted against and did so with bitter recrimination against the government. “With a text directly inspired by National Rally anti-immigration pamphlets, we are facing a shift in the history of the Republic and its fundamental values,” declared Communist leader Fabien Roussel. Boris Vallaud, the head of Socialist lawmakers in parliament, said it was a day of “great dishonor for the government.”
Mathilde Panot, the parliamentary leader of the left wing La France Insoumise described it as “Le Pen’s Bill,” one which “disfigures” France. She said that her party will take the bill to the constitutional court in the hope of having it quashed.
If Le Pen is the winner from the events of the last week, the media have no doubt who is the big loser: Emmanuel Macron. “Implosion,” is the headline in the left-wing Liberation. “A government in crisis.” The paper accused the president of aiding and abetting the rise of Le Pen because of his “amorphous” politics. “In both electoral and ideological terms, nothing now seems to be stopping the rise of the far right,” said the paper.
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