(Bloomberg) -- French lawmakers rejected Emmanuel Macron’s plan to overhaul immigration in a blow to the president’s reform agenda that underscores his inability to build coalitions to pass key legislation.
Members of the lower house from the far-left to the far-right voted to back a so-called motion to dismiss on Monday, a parliamentary tool designed to stop a draft law from reaching the floor for debate.
Proposed by a Green lawmaker, it passed by 270 votes to 265. Five members of the president’s Renaissance party chose not to block it.
Macron is trying to give new impetus to his economic reform agenda with a bill that both seeks to facilitate the expulsion of migrants present in France illegally and create a path to legal status for undocumented workers in sectors that struggle to recruit.
Yet he has failed to build a coalition to support the text after losing his majority in the National Assembly in elections last year, in a sign that he will struggle to push through legislation in the last 3 1/2 years of his final mandate.
“The government tried to please everyone and by doing that, in the end, they pleased no one,” said Antonio Barroso, deputy director of research at political advisory firm Teneo. “This is quintessential Macron, but this time, it just doesn’t work.”
The president had given Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is seen as a potential successor in 2027, the task of building a majority to back the immigration bill.
Speaking on TF1 television, Darmanin acknowledged a “failure.” He said Macron had refused his offer of resignation and asked for proposals to be made on Tuesday on how to proceed with the bill.
The government’s options include revisiting the version proposed by the Senate or summoning a committee of lawmakers to strike an agreement.
Key to securing enough votes were the conservative Republicains, but 40 of their 62 lawmakers supported the motion to dismiss. Their leader, Eric Ciotti, slammed Macron’s proposal after the vote.
“We want a bill that actually responds to the challenges of migration,” he told reporters. “We want a very clear commitment for a constitutional reform. The migration challenge can’t bear half-measures.”
He called on the president to adopt proposals made by the Senate, which is controlled by the Republicains, to toughen the bill before bringing it back again for debate. These include limiting access to healthcare and emergency housing for migrants.
The most contentious point for parties on the right was a provision to give renewable one-year permits to some undocumented workers. France relies on migrants to help keep its hotels and restaurants running, as well as its construction, care and transport sectors.
One in 10 jobs in France is filled by an immigrant, according to a 2021 government study, including more than one-in-five cooks, close to two-fifths of domestic staff and 27% of low-skilled construction workers. At 15%, the unemployment rate among migrants is just over double that of the population with no immigrant background.
On the left, Socialist lawmaker Boris Vallaud denounced what he called a “law to police foreigners.” Mathilde Panot, who leads far-left group France Unbowed at the National Assembly, said Darmanin must go.
Marine Le Pen, who leads the far-right National Rally at the lower house, said she would push for an alternative bill to make it easier to expel what she calls foreign delinquents from France.
“This government thinks of politics as a rodeo: remaining on the horse even when you don’t know where you’re going,” she said after the vote. “But this is an extremely powerful disavowal.”
Macron’s party “had forgotten that it had no majority,” she added. “Tonight, it realized that it’s in the minority.”
(Updates with interior minister comment in eighth paragraph.)
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