‘Take back control!’ Barnier’s rival Bertrand vows vote on immigration in blow to Brussels

Boris Johnson mocks Barnier for French border U-turn

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The president of the Hauts-de-France region is in the running to be the centre-right candidate to replace Emmanuel Macron at the 2022 French presidential elections. Mr Bertrand, the frontrunner of the Les Republicains party, against Michel Barnier, said he will offer a constitutional referendum on immigration should he succeed against Macron next April.

In a bid to counteract Mr Barnier’s referendum pledges, Mr Bertrand also said France should “take back control” of its borders, quoting the famous Leave campaign slogan from the UK.

He said: “No one is at the helm anymore. France is subjected to immigration that it no longer chooses.

“It is urgent to take back control.”

His policy would be based on “two principles”, he said.

Firstly “to decide who can settle on its soil and who must leave its soil”, and secondly to ensure that immigration “meets” the needs of France and not the other way around.

Criticising both President Macron who “dodged the question”, and Marine Le Pen, the president of the Hauts-de-France region proposed to “put an end to the current system of regularisation” and to “dismantle the camps of illegal migrants”, like the so-called “jungle of Calais”, dismantled five years ago.

He promised to revise the Constitution by referendum so that each year “Parliament sets immigration quotas”, and to reduce family immigration as a priority by imposing a “republican passport” certifying a mastery of French and respect for the principles.

“Secularism, equality and primacy of republican law”, he claimed.

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He also suggested expelling “any foreigner sentenced to prison at the end of his sentence”.

Against illegal immigration, Mr Bertrand proposed a “triple border policy”.

With the countries of departure, he pleaded for the “creation of a Mediterranean alliance” and threatened to deprive visas to the countries which refused to “cooperate”.

At the European level, he wanted to “ban all admission” to the Schengen area.

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At the national level, he defended an “emergency migration law for the safe removal” of illegal immigrants.

Mr Bertrand’s pledges come after former EU Brexit negotiator also promised his electorate a referendum on immigration laws.

Mr Barnier surprised everyone in September by calling for the restoration of French national sovereignty on migration issues.

He said: “Each country has its national sovereignty, it is not a question of giving it up.”

“We need a nation to fight nationalism,” he added.

He argued for a halt to non-EU immigration and a referendum on France’s legal sovereignty from EU courts.

He told French TV: “The question of immigration is serious, it will cause ruptures.

“To deal with it, we are proposing a moratorium on immigration and a referendum to regain our legal sovereignty in certain areas.”

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