Michel Barnier calls for non-EU immigration into France to be suspended for up to 5 years

Michel Barnier has called for all non-European Union immigration into France to be banned for up to five years. The EU’s former Brexit negotiator said immigration was “not working” in what is seen as a pitch to lead the centre-Right Republicains into next year’s presidential elections. “I think that effectively we need to take some time, between three to five years, and suspend immigration,” he said in comments aimed at sapping support from rival candidate Marine Le Pen. “I’m not talking about students, I’m not talking about refugees who must be treated with humanity and strength. But we need to rebuild the whole process,” he told French television. Mr Barnier has previously warned that France could follow the UK out of the EU amid “social unrest and anger” over immigration and Europe’s failure to defend its borders. He said Paris should hold talks with its EU allies about how to strengthen the bloc’s border controls and about the passport-free Schengen Zone. “The problems with immigration are not moderate [...]We need to talk to our neighbours about the Schengen Agreement, we possibly need to put in stricter border controls,” Mr Barnier said. Mr Barnier criticised Nigel Farage for his use of immigration in the Brexit referendum campaign in his recently published diary of the negotiations. "Extraordinary. The impact of Brexit is only just beginning," Nigel Farage exclusively told The Telegraph. "Immigration has delivered Brexit and destroyed the Labour Party. Barnier sees the electoral opportunity and he is right." Emmanuel Macron is expected to win the elections but the eurosceptic and anti-immigrant Ms Le Pen is expected to reach the second round of the vote and increase her support.

French government blasts fresh warning of civil war by serving military personnel as far-Right stunt

France’s interior minister has blasted a new open letter by scores of serving French military personnel to Emmanuel Macron warning of impending civil war at the hands of Islamists as a “crude manoeuvre” by the far-Right. Gérald Darmanin dismissed the letter, which includes dire warnings of societal collapse and army intervention, as a blatant bid to boost the far-Right ahead of regional and presidential elections and called on the anonymous signatories to have the “bravery” to identify themselves. In all, 145,000 people, a mixture of military personnel and civilians, had endorsed the second letter by Monday afternoon and 1.7 million people had read it. There are about 426,000 serving members of the French armed forces, including the Gendarmerie. An initial letter released two weeks ago by a group of semi-retired generals and mostly retired officers made similar claims that France was heading for “disintegration” and “civil war” at the hands of Islamists and Leftists. It was strongly supported by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally and candidate in presidential elections in 12 months time. The National Rally commands strong support from the armed forces, with one poll suggesting over 40 per cent of the military and 54 per cent of police officers voted for Ms Le Pen in the first round of the 2017 presidential election. She garnered 21 per cent from the wider electorate in round one. The themes of immigration and security are dominating the French presidential pre-campaign after the murders in the past two weeks of a police officer by a drug dealer and a police employee by an Islamist who turned out to have arrived in France illegally from Tunisia a decade ago. The armed forces are taking disciplinary action against at least 18 serving personnel, including four officers, who signed the first letter.

French generals who warn of ‘civil war’ face ‘forced retirement’ says head of country’s armed forces

The head of France’s armed forces has pledged to punish 20 French generals and 18 French active soldiers, including officers, who signed an open letter warning of the risks of impending "civil war” at the hands of “fanatics” and Islamists, saying they have breached their “duty of reserve”. Regarding the generals, ”each one (will go) before a senior military council, " General Francois Lecointre told Le Parisian newspaper, and could be "delisted" or "put into immediate retirement”. As “second section” reservists, the generals have left active service but are still answerable to the defence ministry and thus obliged to remain neutral in public. As for the 18 still in active service, including four officers, they face dismissal, in particular the higher-ranking signatories. "I believe that the higher the responsibilities, the stronger the obligation of neutrality and exemplarity," said Gen Lecointre. The letter was initially published in Valeurs Actuelles, a Right-wing news magazine, on 21 April - the 60th anniversary of a failed coup d’état against Charles de Gaulle. Initially signed by 1,200 members of the military, more than 8,000 servicemen and women had added their names to it by Thursday. The letter appeals to President Emmanuel Macron to stop France from descending into chaos and “civil war” fomented by “fanatic partisans” for splitting the country.