Emmanuel Macron has suggested discussing the introduction of immigration quotas in nationwide debates that begin on Tuesday in an attempt to end weekly anti-government protests by France’s “yellow vest” movement.
The centrist president will launch the first debate in Grand Bourgtheroulde, a small Normandy community emblematic of the “forgotten France” of the grassroots protest movement.
The two months of debates across the country are intended to air the grievances of the “yellow vests” and identify remedies to defuse widespread public anger over living standards behind nine consecutive weekends of protests and clashes with police in French cities.
Cutting immigration has not been a central demand of the populist revolt but about 40 per cent of “yellow vests” are estimated to support Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party, the far-Right National Rally.
The 41-year-old president’s controversial move to consider quotas for non-EU immigration is seen as an effort to reach out to far Right voters.
Nicolas Bay, a National Rally MEP, rejected the idea, saying: “Why raise the question of quotas when many people want no immigration at all?”
The idea has horrified some of Mr Macron’s own supporters. Aurélien Taché, an MP from the president’s party, La République En Marche, said: “It is astonishing that this issue is being brought up when the president has not discussed it with his party and when it has not come from the yellow-vest movement.”