Calendar: What is happening with France's Immigration bill?

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Calendar: What is happening with France's Immigration bill?
Debates on the immigration bill are scheduled to begin in the Assemblee nationale on December 11th. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

France's controversial immigration bill is at the beginning of what one MP predicts will be 'rock and roll' debates in parliament - here's what will happen next and when (if ever) the bill becomes law.


The Immigration bill is the government's flagship piece of legislation for this parliamentary session and is already stirring fierce opposition. You can find the full detail of the bill HERE - and also look at what it means for foreigners already living in France, for people moving to France and for retirees

Senate reading - In France, bills are usually examined first in the Assemblée nationale and then go to the Senate, but sometimes the process happens the other way round and that's what took place for the immigration bill - this doesn't change the overall power structure which is that in the end, if the two houses cannot agree, the Assemblée has the final say.

Senators passed the bill on November 14th, after adding a large number of significant amendments which have changed several fundamental aspects of the bill. This durcissement (toughening up) of the bill can be reversed when it comes to the Assemblée.


You can find the full list of Senate amendments here, as well as an explanation of how the Senate works.

READ ALSO What's in the Senate's immigration bill - and does it matter anyway?

November 27th - December 3rd - the bill was examined by the Commission des Lois (law commission) - a committee of MPs in the Assemblée nationale. Their role is to examine whether the text (and those Senate amendments) comply with French law.

They examined 1,500 amendments put forward by various MPs in the Assemblée, many of which are intended to alter or cancel the Senate amendments.

"Sixty-three deletion amendments at committee stage just from Parti Socialiste, that must be a record", Parti Socialist MP Hervé Saulignac told France Info, adding that he is expecting a "rock and roll" debate.

The committee ended up junking most of the eye-catching amendments that senators had added, including the proposal to exempt British second-home owners from visa rules. They also re-instated one of the most controversial aspects of the bill - an amnesty for undocumented workers in certain industries with a skills shortage.

December 11th - 22nd - debates are scheduled begin in the Assemblée nationale at 4pm.

However, the Green party says it will put forward a Motion de rejet (motion of rejection) before debates start - if this motion is supported it will cancel the bill before debates even start. It will, however, require the support of the Nupes leftist alliance plus Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement National and at least some of the rightwing Les Républicains in order to succeed - which is far from a foregone conclusion.

If the debates do go ahead, they are expected to be lengthy and heated with several parties already declaring that they will not vote for the bill while others - like Rassemblement National - have flip-flopped back and forth.

Because Emmanuel Macron's party does not have an overall majority in parliament, the bill will need the support of at least one other party if it is to pass, which gives opposition parties the opportunity to bargain to get their changes to the bill accepted. 

"Our objective is to continue to toughen the text", said Olivier Marleix, leader of the right-wing Les Républicains in the Assemblée Nationale.


January 2024 - the debate is currently scheduled to last two weeks, which takes us up to December 22nd, when parliament will break for Christmas. However, if opposition MPs all exercise their rights to extra debate time, the discussions could continue into January.

If the Macron government cannot persuade enough MPs to vote for the bill (all of its own MPs plus the MPs of at least one opposition party) then prime minister Elisabeth Borne has two choices - withdraw the bill before a final vote can be taken or use Article 49.3 of the constitution to force the bill through without a vote.

READ ALSO What is Article 49.3?

Withdrawing the bill would be humiliating for the government, which has declared it the flagship legislation of this year, but using Article 49.3 risks triggering a vote of no-confidence in Borne as PM. 

The right-wing Les Républicains have already said that they would put forward a vote of no confidence if she uses Article 49.3, and it's also likely that the left-wing coalition Nupes would do so as well.

Borne has survived multiple no-confidence votes linked to her use of Article 49.3 to force through the budget and last year's controversial pension reform, but her survival depends on left-wing and right-wing parties refusing to vote for no-confidence motions put forward by the other.


If she loses a no-confidence vote, she will have to resign. Emmanuel Macron remains in post as the president, but if his Prime Minister is forced to resign then he will likely have to either call a fresh round of parliamentary elections, or agree to accept a prime minister from an opposition party in what is known as a cohabitation

Spring 2024 - if the bill is defeated, then the process stops dead. If, however, it is passed in parliament then there are still several steps to go through before it can become law. 

After the administrative and parliamentary steps, the bill must be examined by the Conseil constitutionnel (constitutional council).

This is the highest legal authority in France and bills cannot become law without its approval. All new laws are referred to the council, but often this is a box-ticking exercise if the law doesn't contain anything that could affect people's constitutional rights.

The immigration bill contains several sections that do potentially affect an individual's rights as laid down in the constitution - the council has the power to either approve the law in its entirely, reject it entirely (which is rare) or demand that the government make changes.

Summer 2024 - even if the bill passes through parliament and the Constitutional Council approves it with no alterations, it's highly unlikely to be ready to come into effect before the summer of 2024. The exact timetable for introducing successful bills rests with the government that proposed them.  


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