Michel Barnier last night revealed he intends to run in next year's French presidential election. The former EU chief Brexit negotiator told TF1 television last night that he wanted to replace Emmanuel Macron to 'change the country,' citing his long experience in politics as giving him an edge in the race.
Barnier's role in the withdrawal negotiations will be central to his claims on the top job, with the former French foreign minister boasting of his years spent working 'with heads of state and government to preserve the unity of all the European countries. One can only imagine the reaction in No.10 to the prospect of Barnier strolling up Downing Street again to negotiate with Prime Minister Johnson.
Unfortunately for the French veteran, the road to the Élysée is long and hazardous. He is technically not yet an 'official' candidate for the French presidency – he is instead a candidate for a centre-right primary which does not yet exist. At least four other potential primary candidates are declared or expected with the winner contesting the first round of April's contest.
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) August 26, 2021
Barnier's French cabinet career dates back to the 1990s but – having been primarily based in Brussels since 2010 – he lacks a big political constituency or profile in his native country. This means he is unlikely to win such a primary, let alone the presidency next April. Already,, Xavier Bertrand, the centre right leader of the Hauts-de-France regional council, has said he will ignore any centre right primary and run regardless in April.
So, what might Michel be up to? Plugging sales of his hagiographic Brexit diaries? Angling for a plum cabinet post under a rival candidate? Whatever it is, Mr S was intrigued to hear the manifesto on which the longtime Eurocrat intends to stand. Barnier told viewers last night that he intends to 'restore the authority of the state' as well as 'limit and have control over immigration,' reaffirming his controversial proposal for a moratorium on immigration.
Given Barnier's common refrain during the Brexit years that 'the single market and its four freedoms are indivisible. Cherry picking is not an option' Steerpike looks forward to seeing how the lifelong Europhile intends to square this view with curbs on free movement of people.