How France’s far right changed the debate on immigration

For the first time since its founding, France’s anti-immigration National Rally (RN) party has clawed its way to within arm’s reach of governing. The far-right party’s rise has fundamentally changed France’s immigration debate, dragging besieged President Emmanuel Macron's once-liberal coalition far to the right while bringing together a bloc of left-wing parties united by the desire to give undocumented migrants a pathway to legal work.

Speaking on the island of Sein off Brittany’s coast, whose men famously took to their boats to join the rag-tag Free French forces in neighbouring Britain following General Charles de Gaulle’s call to resist Nazi occupation, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday made his own appeal to the French people. Amid his usual calls to the public to reject the “extremes” of the far-right National Rally (Rassemblement national, or RN) party and the left-wing New Popular Front, the pro-business president let slip a word he’d never said before – at least in public. The New Popular Front (NFP)’s programme, he stressed, was “totally immigrationist”.

Marta Lorimer, lecturer in politics at Cardiff University, said that the far right’s resurgence in Europe had not happened overnight.

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