French top court nixes cushy visa deal for rich Brits

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France’s Constitutional Court on Thursday rejected some of the more controversial elements of an immigration law defended by hardline conservatives that sparked an internal crisis in President Emmanuel Macron’s camp.

The French top court, made up largely of former high-ranking politicians, deemed 32 of the bill’s 86 articles to be unconstitutional, including narrower access to social benefits for immigrants recently arrived in France.

Left-wing opposition MPs had accused the bill of creating a system of “national preference” — a policy long advocated by the French far right that gives French citizens greater legal privileges than foreigners.

The Macron government, which doesn’t have a majority in the lower house, managed to pass the bill in December under an agreement with the right-wing Les Républicains movement, tweaking the planned reform to accede to requests by hardline conservatives.

The bill was ultimately also supported by far-right opposition leader Marine Le Pen, who dubbed it an “ideological victory” for her National Rally party. Macron’s camp, however, was plunged into political crisis by the unsought alliance, with left-leaning cabinet members publicly criticizing the changes and nearly one-quarter of MPs in the president’s coalition refusing to vote in favor of the bill.

The court also canceled a preferential visa clause favoring British owners of vacation homes on Thursday, ruling it had no direct or indirect link to the core aim of the bill. The Brexit-related clause had been added to the text by French conservative senators during November parliamentary debate and confirmed during a final vote.

Under the canceled proposal, new long-term visas would have been issued automatically to British owners of second homes. Following Thursday’s court decision the old rules will remain in effect, with British citizens being allowed to spend up to 90 days in any 180-day period on the Continent. Those who want to stay longer must apply for ad-hoc long-term visas.

Far right wants referendum

“The Constitutional Court has green-lit the government’s original bill,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who spearheaded the legislation, tweeted on X. “Never has a law provided so many means for expelling delinquents and so many obligations to integrate newcomers.”

The government was at pains to claim a win on substance in what was at best a Pyrrhic victory: The fallout of the law’s passage left Macron’s parliamentary coalition deeply scarred and forced a major government reshuffle.

Jordan Bardella, president of the National Rally, faulted the court’s decision and asked for a referendum on immigration, while Les Républicains head Eric Ciotti demanded a constitutional reform.

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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