Former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, currently a contender for the French presidency, said Monday that France had lost control of immigration. Barnier is in a heated five-way race for the Les Republicains party’s nomination.
“Immigration is out of control,” Barnier said in comments to Reuters, moments before he spoke to members of Les Republicains in Paris. “Our security is no longer guaranteed. There is a sense of impunity and insecurity throughout the country.”
Barnier proposed a complete moratorium on all immigration until France’s border policies are improved. He said he would like to see soldiers to patrol certain communities, particularly those where there is no police presence or control. He also advocated a nation-wide referendum on compulsory military service.
“I’m looking at the problem my country faces.”
President Macron has denied that immigration is out of control. But his assurances contradict official data from the government statistics agency, INSEE, which show that net migration numbers have risen steadily since the early 2000s.
INSEE data indicates that 272,000 immigrants arrived in France in 2020. This is compared with 259,000 in 2016 and 211,000 in 2010.
Barnier characterized President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership as arrogant and narrow. Such qualities in a president cannot, Barnier said, heal the country’s divisions.
Barnier, long considered a moderate of the centre-right, is thought by some to be moving more towards the far-right in order to bring back voters who have flocked to Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen, the two leading right-wing candidates outside the party.
Currently Xavier Bertrand, a politician from the northern Hauts-de-France region, is in the lead for the Les Republicains party’s nomination, followed by Valerie Pecresse of the Ile de France.
The various contenders have all agreed, however, to support whoever wins next week’s two-round vote, which will take place among all party members. However, national opinion polls show all of them still trailing behind Macron, Le Pen, and Zemmour.