Immigration Key Issue is European Elections

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces some challenges ahead of a July 4 national election in Britain, in which immigration will again be a major political issue as small boats bearing asylum seekers continue to make the perilous journey across the Channel from France.

Sending asylum seekers who have arrived in Britain without permission to Rwanda is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s flagship immigration policy, but legal and parliamentary obstacles have meant it has never got off the ground.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful because of the risk that Rwanda would return asylum seekers to their country of origin. Sunak in response signed a new treaty with the east African country and pushed new legislation through parliament to override the Supreme Court ruling. But implementation of the policy hinges on Sunak’s Conservatives winning the election. The first flight is due to leave on July 24 if they do. But the opposition Labour Party, leading by about 20 points in opinion polls, has pledged to scrap the plan if elected.

The results of the European Union-wide elections held earlier in June have resulted significant gains for the far right. Despite claims by European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen that the centre has held, the new parliament that will convene in Strasbourg, France in July will be one that tilts emphatically to the right. The “moderate” conservatives and Christian Democrats of the European People’s Party group have reinforced their position as the largest bloc, with 190 seats (up by 14). However, the real story of the elections relates to the gains made by formations on the radical and far right. Between them, the European Conservatives and Reformists and the neo-fascist alliance known as Identity and Democracy (ID) now control 134 seats in the 720-member European Parliament, a total just short of the 136 seats won by the Social Democrat bloc S&D. When one stirs in the 15 seats garnered by Germany’s neo-fascist Alternative für Deustchland (AfD), summarily ejected from the ID bloc on the eve of the elections following pro-Nazi comments by its leader, the overall advance made by Europe’s far right becomes clearer. And that’s before the 11 seats won by the Fidesz party of Viktor Orban in Hungary are factored into the equation.

Immigration is the key issue in all these European elections including the upcoming snap elections in France as result of the European Union elections.