Paris: A group of French lawmakers struck a tentative deal on Tuesday on a contested bill that will toughen immigration laws and has highlighted the difficulties for President Emmanuel Macron of running the country with no majority in parliament.
The government had initially said this would be a carrot-and-stick legislation that would make it easier for migrants working in sectors that lack labour to get a residency permit, but would also make it easier to expel illegal migrants.
But, without a majority in the lower house of parliament since the June 2022 elections, and in order to gain support from the right, the government progressively agreed to water down measures meant to give some illegal migrants residency permits, while tightening access to welfare, among other steps.
The deal agreed by a special committee of seven senators and seven deputies is good news for Macron, who had made the migration bill a key plank of his second mandate.
But it could also boost Marine Le Pen, who called the outcome “a great ideological victory” for her far-right party – which the government denies.
The conservative Les Republicains, who have over the years hardened their discourse closer to that of the far-right, also claimed victory.
The deal is skewed to the right – including by delaying migrants’ access to welfare benefits – because of the large presence of conservative senators in the committee.
The left wing of Macron’s own majority has expressed unease over some of the bill’s more right-wing aspects and some may abstain or vote against the text when it goes through the two houses of parliament later on Tuesday.
But Le Pen said her party would now back the text, which should ensure it will go through, barring surprises.
Coming just six months before European parliament elections, successful passage of the bill in parliament would be a welcome boost for Macron.
“This bill will make our system more efficient because it will drastically simplify our procedures for processing asylum applications, (and) because it will make it possible to expel criminal or radicalised foreigners more quickly,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told parliament.