Brexit: Michel Barnier insists his ‘mission isn’t over’
The EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has started rumours of a presidential bid in France’s 2022 elections after he announced the formation of a new faction among the right-wing Les Républicains: “Patriot and European”. Mr Barnier said earlier this month: “I am available to work with all those who want it under the banner of ‘Patriot and European’, so as not to leave this theme to others.” A possible bid by Mr Barnier is being closely watched by French President Emmanuel Macron’s camp, as he would eat at the pro-European, centre-right electorate.
“There’s a Biden moment. Grey hair could become fashionable,” a minister claimed on condition of anonymity when asked about the Brexit negotiator’s possible bid.
Mr Barnier and Mr Macron share the same European values – and even appear to want the same things for the future of the European Union.
Hinting at a two-tier EU, Mr Barnier wrote on Twitter in 2015: “We won’t always be able to move all together on all issues.
“Must accept some move ahead faster, greater integration of the eurozone.”
The concept of a “two-speed” Europe is not new and has been debated for years in European political circles as a way to solve some institutional issues.
The concept is that the more members there are in the bloc, the more difficult it becomes to reach consensus on various topics, and the less likely it is that all would advance at the same pace in various fields.
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The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
In March 2017, after the Brexit vote, the idea of having different parts of the EU integrating at different levels and space underwent a revival.
Encouraged by Mr Macron, then-European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker released a five-point view of possible courses, looking forward to the year 2025.
The points, among which Mr Juncker expressed no preference, “range from standing down from policing of government financing of companies, for example, to a broader pullback that would essentially strip the EU back to being merely a single market”, according to one report.
The updated possibilities would result in member countries or groups of countries adopting different levels of participation with the union.
The European Commission was approaching a March meeting of the 27 members in Rome and Mr Juncker’s paper addressed the options that “once invited scorn from convinced Europhiles” and seemed maybe even to have some backing “of lifelong federalists” like the President.
Despite receiving backing, the idea was later dropped.
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French President Emmanuel Macron
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, French MEP Philippe Olivier, who also serves as special adviser to National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, claimed Mr Barnier does not stand a chance in next year’s election.
He said: “Michel Barnier is not even French.
“He is a Europeanist, but not French.
“He is all the more ridiculous because he thinks that maybe because he has achieved something on a European level this would qualify him to represent something for France.
“He thinks the EU can send a governor here, but he doesn’t realise French people don’t want it.
“French people showed that in 2005 when they voted against the EU constitution in a referendum.”
Mr Olivier added: “In France, presidential elections are a contract between a candidate and the people of France.
“It is a bit like voting for a Queen or a King.
“It is evident that a person who has been sent by an international organisation stands absolutely no chance.”
Ms Le Pen has recently come within reach for the first time of beating Mr Macron in next year’s election.
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French MEP Philippe Olivier
National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen
The Harris survey suggested that Ms Le Pen is close to breaching the “glass ceiling” of French politics.
The barrier was based on the longstanding assumption that an absolute majority of voters would never back a far-right candidate.
If the next year’s election was staged now, Ms Le Pen would have 48 percent of the vote, with Mr Macron on 52 percent, according to the poll carried out online on January 19 and 20.
The four-point difference, which is within the margin of error, compared with a June 2020 Ifop poll that put Mr Macron at 55 percent and Ms Le Pen at 45.
In 2017, Mr Macron, who at the time was a debutant politician running as an independent candidate, crushed Ms Le Pen with 66 percent to her 34 percent.
Jordan Bardella, her 25-year-old deputy, congratulated the National Rally President, writing on Twitter: “Marine Le Pen has confirmed that she is capable of winning in 2022.
“May all energy and goodwill come together to conquer victory.”