France Needs a 3-5 Year Ban on Immigration, Says EU Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier

Head of the Task Force for Relations with the UK, Michel Barnier delivers a speech during the debate on EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement during the second day of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, on April 27, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER HOSLET / POOL / AFP) …
OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

France should commit to a three to five-year moratorium on immigration in light of problems such as terrorism, the European Union’s former chief Brexit negotiator has said.

French politician Michel Barnier admitted that the country’s immigration system is “not working” and that the European Union’s common external border has been reduced to a “sieve”.

Appearing on the France Télévisions public broadcaster on Monday, Barnier said: “I try to look at the problems as they are, as the French people experience them. I think that it is indeed necessary to take the time for three or five years of suspended immigration.”

The former Brexit negotiator also called for the European Union’s internal Schengen border system — once described as “effectively an international passport-free zone for terrorists” by a former INTERPOL chief — to become “more rigorous” in order to tackle issues of security and human trafficking and make increasing deportations of illegal migrants to their country of origin easier.

“These are major projects to find solutions to this problem of immigration, which does not work,” he said.

The so-called Free Movement migration regime within the EU was a central issue in the Brexit campaign of 2016, with Leavers vowing to “take back control” of Britain’s borders.

Strikingly, Mr Barnier’s proposal for a five-year immigration pause is similar to ideas put forward by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) under then-leader Nigel Farage, who called for a five-year prohibition on importing unskilled workers in the run-up to the 2016 EU Referendum.

In April, Michel Barnier warned that if French president Emmanuel Macron fails to learn the lessons of Brexit — notably on issues such as mass migration — then France could follow the United Kingdom’s lead and leave the European Union.

“We can find, not just in the UK, but here in France, in the northern and eastern regions… citizens who want to leave the EU,” he said.

The centre-right eurocrat launched a political faction in France in February, opening the door for a potential run for the French presidency in 2022. Barnier, who is currently on tour promoting his book, The Grand Illusion, has been mooted as a possible presidential candidate for the Les Républicains (LR) party.

Mr Macron, for his part, has seen his support in the polls eroded by the populist right-wing leader of the National Rally (RN) party, Marine Le Pen, who has been a vocal critic of mass immigration, particularly from Islamic countries.

Left-liberal Macron has seemingly tried to co-opt the mood of the French public by taking a more hardline stance against radical Islam in the wake of a series of high-profile terror attacks, including the beheading of a French teacher, Samuel Paty, by a Muslim refugee after he showed his class satirical images of Islam’s prophet Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of expression.

Following the terror attack, President Macron said that people who don’t believe in Western liberalism and Englightenment values should leave “Frech soil”.

The division on the issue in France has only seemed to increase, however, with a group of retired military officials recently writing an open letter to Macron warning of a possible civil war if radical Islam and left-wing identity politics are not dealt with.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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