The French Government coalition is split over its upcoming immigration bill.
With only a few days before it goes to parliament, French President Emmanuelle Macron’s supporters are being besieged by both the left- and right-wing oppositions, which are also divided within themselves.
The heart of the dispute lies in Article 3 of the bill, which seeks to give an official or “regularised” status to illegal immigrants in vital sectors of the economy.
Controversy surrounds a clandestine dinner French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne had with the leader of the centre-right Les Républicains. During it, Borne allegedly suggested deleting the contentious Article 3 in exchange for the centre-right’s support, according to a leak from Le Parisien.
The leak contradicts assurances made by interior minister Gérald Darmanin to Macron’s centrist Renaissance party that the government may reform Article 3 but would keep it.
“Who should we believe? Gérald Darmanin, who tells us that he is attached to article 3, or the comments reported by Élisabeth Borne in Le Parisien?,” asked Élodie Jacquier-Laforge, a leading member of the government’s coalition partner the MoDem (Democratic Movement) party.
“Article 3 must be rewritten, but there is no question of deleting it,” the Prime Minister’s office said, apparently trying to reassure other deputies.
This has done little to discourage the left-wing, pro-immigration forces from rallying and issuing warnings to the government.
A group of left-wing Macronist MPs known as the Social Amicale has penned a letter to Borne, expressing their unwavering commitment to the bill’s original text. They emphasised what they said was the importance of retaining Article 3 and demanded a meeting to discuss their concerns, further elevating the stakes.
In September, a coalition of MPs signed an open letter to French paper Libération, demanding the regularisation of illegal immigrants. “We carry a humanist and concrete project,” they wrote, saying that without illegal migrants, “entire sections of our country could not function”.
While left-wing Macronists see this as a pivotal step toward more open immigration policies, the right-wing adamantly opposes any relaxation of labour immigration.
This division continues as the clock is running down and the bill is set to face a Senate with a slim majority under right-wing control. Finding common ground seems to many to be next to impossible and there appears to be no progress from the earlier deadlock in September.
Speaking to Le Figaro, one government advisor said this latest “imbroglio” was “difficult to understand”, fearing that the centrist government was engaged in “a fool’s game” by trying to find a compromise between Left and Right.