Emmanuel Macron refused to accept the resignation of his interior minister on Monday evening after the government’s immigration bill was thrown out of parliament. It was a crushing humiliation for Gerald Darmanin, as well as Macron, and a moment of exquisite pleasure for their many political opponents.
In an unprecedented show of unity, right and left came together to adopt by just five votes a motion proposed by the Green Party to reject the bill without even debating it. They did so, however, for different reasons.
In the eyes of the left, the bill is ‘racist and xenophobic: they particularly object to the proposal to cut welfare benefits and expel more illegal immigrants; while the right – Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and the centre-right Republicans – considered it too liberal, specifically the clause that would regularise the status of illegal immigrants working in some job sectors. Le Pen told reporters she was ‘delighted’ with the outcome because it ‘protected the French from a migratory tidal wave’.
Le Monde described the bill’s rejection as a ‘stunning setback for the government’, a description echoed in Le Figaro’s editorial this morning, which said it represents ‘the biggest setback suffered by Emmanuel Macron since his arrival at the Élysée’.
Macron was elected president in 2017 on a pledge that he was ‘neither left, (nor) right’, and he attracted to his Renaissance party figures from the left (like his Socialist prime minister Elisabeth Borne) and from the right (such as Darmanin). His ambiguous governance was epitomised by his favourite slogan, ‘En Meme Temps’ (At the Same Time); in other words, saying one thing but doing another, in an attempt to keep his disparate party united.
But, as with the Tories, the divisions within Macron’s party have been exposed by the question of immigration and the president has failed to produce a bill that satisfied his own party, let alone the rest of parliament.