The EU’s plan to spread migrants throughout the continent is on the brink of collapse after France rejected the proposal while Spain appeared to cool on the idea.
Britain has already expressed opposition to the plan, and was preparing to opt out, but the French rejection may now kill the whole idea.
According to the Times, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “I am against the introduction of quotas for migrants. This never corresponded to the French position,” while president François Hollande told a press conference: “There is no question of having immigrant quotas because we already have rules governing border checks and immigration controls.”
Hollande said: “The right to asylum does not correspond to a quota,” adding: “We reject this notion which is contrary to the principles.”
Meanwhile, Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo also appeared to pour cold water on the plan, saying that Spain could not offer adequate help to the refugees due to its high unemployment rate: “Pledging to take in migrants to whom you cannot provide work would be, in my opinion, providing a bad service.”
The European Commission had pledged to introduce a quota plan that would force each EU nation to take a share of refugees after 750 drowned in the Mediterranean last month while trying to reach Italy from Libya.
The French reaction has surprised many as President Hollande was initially counted as a supporter of the scheme. France had been asked to take 14.17 per cent of all refugees who reached the EU, the second-largest number on the continent. Other European nations, including Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have all also rejected the move.
The European Commission is reportedly dismayed at the French stance as it now means there could be enough member states to form a “blocking minority” that could vote down the scheme.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage was an early opponent of the plan, saying: “We simply can’t accept countless millions.” He also described it as a threat to European security since Islamic State have said they want to “flood the continent with half a million Islamic extremists”.
“There is nothing in this document that will stop those people from coming,” he said.