Brexit: Barnier warns of ‘feelings of not being protected’
Mr Barnier has played an important role in shaping the future relationship between the EU and Britain. A mere month after the UK voted to leave the bloc, Brussels announced he would be the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Commenting on the appointment, former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I wanted an experienced politician for this difficult job.”
For the 2020 trade talks, Mr Barnier was once again the main negotiator and despite months of tensions, the two sides reached an agreement on Christmas Eve.
Now, there is mounting speculation the French politician might be mulling a possible bid in next year’s presidential election, as he announced last week he was setting up a political faction under the name “Patriot and European”.
A possible bid by Mr Barnier is being closely watched by French President Emmanuel Macron’s camp, as he could collect votes from the pro-European, centre-right electorate.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, though, 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.
He said: “Michel Barnier is not even French.
“He is a Europeanist, but not French.
Michel Barnier’s presidential bid torn apart by Le Pen’s aide: ‘He is not even French!’
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
“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 election 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.
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.
French MEP Philippe Olivier
National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen
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.”
In another interview with Express.co.uk, German MEP Gunnar Beck also welcomed the poll, explaining how much of a difference Ms Le Pen could make in Europe if elected French President.
Mr Beck argued the eurosceptic could revolutionise Brussels and put an end to EU integration.
He said: “In terms of EU policy, France is the most important country in Europe.
“Some say it is Germany, but they are wrong. We saw it during the eurozone crisis.
“Generally, the French have prevailed.
“If Le Pen became President, there would be enormous change… particularly on subjects like migration.
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French President Emmanuel Macron
German MEP Gunnar Beck
“On the euro, there will be a different approach and there will be a recalibration.”
Mr Beck also claimed her election would be a shock for the extreme integrationists and “a huge boost for the eurosceptics”.
He added: “Most importantly, it will put a stop to the process towards an ever closer union.
“It could be the most important event of European history in decades and it will fundamentally upset the Germans.
“Even more than Donald Trump‘s victory in 2016.”
The first round of the presidential election is due to take place in April 2022.
The second round is held two weeks later between the two candidates who receive the most votes.