Michel barnier

Macron and Barnier chase the nationalist vote

For centrists of a certain age, few names are more likely to tug the heartstrings than Emmanuel Macron and Michel Barnier. In the halcyon days of 2017, the two Frenchman seemed the epitome of all that was chic, calm and above all rational: the former a fresh-faced Élysée outsider who made moderation great again; the latter a silver-haired successor to the tradition of Talleyrand as the EU’s Brexit negotiator. But four years is a long time in politics and both men have undergone something of a transformation. Plagued by protests and the pandemic, Macron has shelved much of his ambitious reform programme, embarking instead on populist crowd-pleasers as fears have grown over

Who do you think you are kidding Mr Barnier?

Michel Barnier is running for president of France as a Eurosceptic. He’s talking about pulling back powers to the French state and installing ‘a sovereign shield’ to allow France to impose its own immigration policy. But he’s about as credible as a vegan crocodile. Barnier was at the scene of the crime when the French voted (by a 55 per cent majority) in 2005 to reject the treaty establishing a new European constitution. In a great betrayal of democracy, voters were simply ignored and the government signed the document anyway, relabeled as the Lisbon Treaty. Barnier was present and materially involved in this scam, which makes his current Eurosceptic claims absurd

Don’t underestimate Barnier

No one really expects Michel Barnier to be chosen as the Républicains’s candidate for the French presidency. Success in Brussels does not make it easier to win at home. The most famous example of this rule is Martin Schulz, who returned from a long career in Brussels to become German SPD leader and chancellor candidate in 2017. He was seen as a political curiosity partly because he was unknown. But he couldn’t keep up the momentum after German voters saw him on the domestic stage. Brussels insiders become detached from what’s going on at home. It is much easier to go to Brussels than it is to come back. But don’t write

Michel Barnier’s doomed presidential bid

The French President Emmanuel Macron has, it is revealed, forbidden all talk at the Elysée of the forthcoming presidential election and has refused to discuss even whether he will be a candidate. His entire attention is focused on France and the French, he claims. Of course this is entirely the opposite of the truth as his entire attention is focused on being re-elected. Nevertheless, he was likely to have been opening a bottle of something sparkling in which to dip his croissant this morning with the announcement that Michel Barnier, yet another no-hoper, has thrown his beret into the ring to oppose him. Divide and conquer seems to be Macron’s


Michel Barnier to run for French President

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

Bloc buster: David Frost on Brexit, Barnier and the backstop

In an eyrie at the top of the Cabinet Office sits David Frost, Boris Johnson’s former Brexit negotiator who is now the cabinet minister responsible for handling the European Union. His office has the genial feel of a don’s study — there’s a book of Anglo-Saxon verse on his table alongside one of Greek poetry — yet mention Frost’s name to even the most mild-mannered EU diplomats and they begin to fume. In an effort to understand the apparent mismatch, I ask Frost if he feels the need to be aggressive in negotiations. ‘I hope not,’ he replies. But he does admit that he did feel that way when he

What Europe could learn from Britain’s new migration system

While the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has no formal role in devising the bloc’s immigration policy, his words this week have turned much of the Brexit debate on its head. In an interview on French television, he said that France should suspend non-EU immigration for three to five years — with the exception of students and refugees — and that the EU needed to toughen external borders that have become a ‘sieve’. Had those words come from the mouth of Nigel Farage, he would have been excoriated, not least by Barnier himself. How can any country (let alone a continent) manage in the modern world while shutting

Michel Barnier’s Brexit diary shows he needs a lesson in diplomacy

David Davis was ‘truculent’. Dominic Raab was ‘almost messianic’. Theresa May was ‘rigid. While Boris Johnson kept asking to borrow a tenner and whether it would be okay if Carrie joined the meeting.  Okay, I made that last one up, but the rest are among the startling revelations contained in Michel Barnier’s Brexit diary, published in France this week, and due to come out in the UK in the autumn.  Why is Barnier publishing a diary at all? After all, shouldn’t the negotiations have remained confidential? From the extracts so far, ‘The Great Illusion’, to give it is full-title, seems to be fairly standard Europhile stuff. Indeed, if you are

France’s growing German scepticism

Britain’s favourite Frenchman, Michel Barnier, is in the Calais region today where he will address a conference about his part in Brexit and perhaps give a further indication as to his presidential aspirations. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator was described in yesterday’s Le Figaro as the man who can ‘unite the right’ and in doing so present a credible alternative to Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in 2022. Barnier presides over a political initiative called Patriotes et européens and he explained its concept to Le Figaro: ‘Patriot and European, this means that I believe in the force of the nations, the respect of national identities and France as a country of

Isn’t it time Michel Barnier retired?

He took the European Union to the edge of a no-deal Brexit, creating logistical chaos on both sides of the Channel. His high-handedness and patronising manner hardened positions on both sides. And his brinkmanship clearly failed, leading to a far more distant relationship with the UK than might otherwise have been possible. It would be hard to conclude from the wreckage of the last four years that Michel Barnier had been a great success as the man in charge of negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU. But heck, this is Brussels we are talking about, and you can’t let a little thing like success or failure derail the careers of

Fishing could sink the Brexit negotiations

Throughout the Brexit talks it has been declared that the deal wouldn’t fall over fish. But that is now looking increasingly likely. The two sides remain far apart on the subject and time is running short. Fishing is not the only issue, there are still some disagreements over the Commission’s desire to exempt itself and the European Investment Bank from the subsidy control provisions of the agreement when the UK would have no such carve out. But fish is the most problematic area. Johnson is prepared to leave without a deal over the fishing issue The EU, as Michel Barnier made clear this morning, are insisting on an fisheries transition

Brexit talks go down to the wire

After the past few years, it is hard to take Brexit deadlines seriously; they have a tendency to always slide to the right. But Sunday night/Monday morning really is the final deadline, as I say in the Times this morning. There are two reasons for this. First, the Internal Market Bill and the Finance Bill are in the Commons on Monday and Tuesday respectively. Both of these bills override parts of the withdrawal agreement, and in particular the Northern Ireland protocol. The EU would fiercely object, complaining the UK was breaking its obligations under international law and pointing to how the government had itself admitted it was a ‘specific and

Is a no-deal Brexit underpriced?

As the Brexit talks enter what is expected to be the last full week of substantive negotiations, opposition leaders are blasting the government for the lack of progress while No. 10 has issued a warning that no deal is ‘arguably underpriced’. So, is this more fighting talk for the purpose of the negotiations or is no deal now a likely prospect? Given that Boris Johnson agreed a deal at the last minute in the first stage of Brexit talks on the withdrawal agreement, the working assumption among many Tory MPs for some time has been that the same will occur this time around. Some of Johnson’s colleagues even point to the recent departure of Vote

Full text: UK and EU Brexit negotiators debate over Twitter

Below is the full text of UK Brexit negotiator David Frost’s twitter thread in response to his EU counterpart Michel Barnier: ‘I would like to make a few comments and state a few facts, in my capacity as the PM’s negotiator in the current and last autumn’s talks. On the Protocol, we indeed negotiated a careful balance in order to preserve peace and the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. It is precisely to ensure this balance can be preserved in all circumstances that the government needs powers in reserve to avoid it being disrupted. On third country listings: the EU knows perfectly well all the details of our food standards rules because we

Coronavirus has exposed the EU’s greatest flaw

Politics begins and ends with sovereignty: the duty and right to make the legitimate final decision. We have seen this clearly during the pandemic. In every country, people have come to depend on their governments, whose authority rests on acknowledged sovereignty. This is as true, or even truer, in democracies: while monarchs and aristocrats could dispute sovereignty – and, where it suited them, divide up the cake amongst themselves – in a democracy there can only be one ultimate sovereign: the people. No sovereignty, no democracy. For years we have been told the illusion, if not a fraud, that sovereignty can be ‘pooled’. Who takes the final decision when sovereignty

The UK will not request an extension to the Brexit transition period

David Frost, the Prime Minister’s chief Brexit negotiator, has held discussions with the First Secretary of State Dominic Raab and other senior ministers in the last few days. As I say in tomorrow’s Spectator, the conclusion of these discussions has been that the UK will not request an extension to the transition period. Interestingly, I understand that no one in these discussions backed asking for an extension. The thinking is that a delay would not solve the fundamental policy problems and that a deal is either possible or not. Another factor, I understand, is that the government worries about the cost of any extension. There is concern that extending could

Revealed: Michel Barnier and France’s Brexit stitch-up

The glaring difference between the EU and British negotiating goals has been brought into plain sight. In readiness for the upcoming Barnier-Frost negotiations, the French senate produced for the French government a set of requirements that Michel Barnier should work to in the negotiations. Those recommendations, which it published on 6 March, are extremely hardline. If Britain were to accept even a few of the key objectives, it could undermine Brexit. Given president Macron’s power in the European Council it is safe to say that most, if not all, of the recommendations will figure prominently in Barnier’s negotiating file. Frost will have to be on his guard to resist them when talks

Brexit has its risks. But staying in the EU is now unthinkable

This is one of the most crucial weeks in modern British history. We have a prime minister and cabinet who understand the stakes in terms of our future independence. But the forces fighting them — some of them sincere, many of them cynical — are fearsome. There are risks in proceeding with Brexit. But there are far greater risks in abandoning it. This endless crisis has led to widespread criticism of British politicians of all hues, some of it justified. I find it deeply distasteful to see very senior Conservatives plotting with the opposition to bring down the Prime Minister. But far less criticism has been levelled at the EU

Europe’s blind spot

In Paris in December, I sat with a journalist friend in a café on the Boulevard Auguste-Blanqui and listened to him explain to me why a no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for Britain. It had to do with an article his newspaper had published about the Mini. You might think they were typically British cars, he said, but the plant where they were made in Cowley belonged to BMW! The steering wheels were assembled in Romania! The tail lights came from Poland! So? I asked. Brexit was about leaving the EU, not making globalisation un-happen. Who do you think wants to close the Mini plant? Britain does not want

Michel Barnier confirms Brexiteer fears

When Eurosceptic MPs voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal last week, the hope was that this would send a strong signal both to the Prime Minister and Brussels that strong changes were needed if it were to have any hope of passing. The problem is that the scale of the defeat – by 230 votes – means that the changes Leave MPs want to see are not the changes that the EU has in mind. In an interview with the Luxembourg Times, chief negotiator Michel Barnier says that he does not believe the troubled backstop is ‘the central issue’. Instead, he believes the numbers for a Brexit deal can be