Brexit Negotiator Barnier Is Running for French President
(Bloomberg) -- Michel Barnier, the European Union’s former Brexit negotiator, will seek to represent the French Republican party in the country’s upcoming presidential election.
“I’ve decided to run and to be the president of a France that is reconciled with itself, to respect the French and to make France respected,” Barnier told broadcaster TF1 late Thursday. “I’ve learned something important for our country and that’s when you know how to respect people and bring them together around the same table, then we succeed.”
The 70-year-old former foreign affairs and agriculture minister isn’t going to have an easy time. Despite featuring heavily in international press coverage for his role in the Brexit talks, Barnier remains unknown to many in France, including those outside elite circles and the Brussels bubble.
He faces a crowded field that includes member of parliament Eric Ciotti and Valerie Pecresse, who runs the Paris region. The head of the working-class Hauts-de-France region, Xavier Bertrand, meanwhile, is trying to clinch support without taking part in a primary, by raising his profile.
Republican leaders haven’t confirmed they will hold a primary. They might just pick the candidate who tops a poll they ordered to test the appeal of different contenders. Either way, they plan to make a decision in November.
If Bertrand represents the conservative party in the first round of the election on April 10, 2022, he’d win 16% of the vote, according to a Harris interactive poll published this week. Pecresse would secure 13%, behind Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen who’d both get around 25%. Barnier wasn’t tested by the pollster.
In the second round on April 24, Macron would win over Le Pen with 55% over 45%, according to the Harris poll, which surveyed 1,343 adults representative of French people based on quotas for gender, age, socio-economic status, region and previous votes, online from Aug. 20-23.
Barnier entered politics in the seventies and was once France’s youngest MP. It was in 2016 that he became the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
In his book, “The Great Illusion,” Barnier wrote a detailed account of the highs and lows of the negotiations that ended with a deal at the end of last year but failed to solve many issues, including fishing rights for European fishermen in U.K. waters.
Barnier recalled “that extraordinary negotiation of Brexit during, which I worked on with heads of government and of state to preserve the unity of all the European countries,” in Thursday’s television interview.
Asked what differentiates him from Macron, Barnier referred to the Alps, where he was born: “In this mountainous region, we know what a rope team is. I know that in a rope team everyone counts, just like I think that each citizen is important in our country.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.