A group of French lawmakers met on Tuesday to try and strike a deal on a contested bill that will toughen France’s 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 has progressively agreed to water down measures meant to give some migrants residency permits, while tightening access to welfare, among other steps.
EU lawmaker Jordan Bardella, who heads the far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally) said the toughening of immigration laws showed “an ideological victory” for his party, a characterisation of the talks which lawmakers in Macron’s camp disagreed with.
Some lawmakers said the special committee meeting on Tuesday was already heading towards an agreement.
“It seems there is a deal” on social welfare measures, said Pierre-Henri Dumont, from the conservative Les Republicains.
Even if there is agreement during the special committee meeting, it remains to be seen whether the left wing of Macron’s own majority, which has expressed unease over some of the bill’s more conservative aspects, will approve the compromise in votes in the two houses of parliament later on Tuesday.
“I’m taking Alka-Seltzer,” one lawmaker from the left wing, Patrick Vignal, told Reuters, referring to an anti-acid medicine.
Coming just six months before European parliament elections, successful passage of the bill in parliament would be a welcome boost for Macron. He has struggled to contain a resurgent far right, which has put the fight against immigration at the top of its agenda.