In April 2011, France reintroduced internal border checks with Italy to prevent mobility by North African immigrants who hold temporary residence permits issued by Italy and who had entered the EU from Tunisia as a result of revolutions and war in the southern Mediterranean region. This has caused a diplomatic row between the two countries and provoked strong reactions other EU member states and at EU level. This paper examines the compatibility of the Italian and French measures with EU border legislation and legal principles as well as the foundations of the Schengen regime. It argues that the Franco-Italian affair illustrates a ‘race to the bottom’ on European principles of solidarity, loyal cooperation and fundamental rights. The affair ultimately reveals the very limits and unfinished elements of the EU’s immigration and border policies. Finally, the paper puts forward policy recommendations to the parties involved.