Fri. May 27th, 2022


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Barnier issues Frexit warning: France could quit the EU – ‘We have to be very careful’

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Brexit: Barnier says things will be 'more difficult' for UK

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The bloc’s former Brexit negotiator said eurocrats must heed warnings from disenfranchised citizens before it’s too late to avoid another member state quitting the project. He said some people have been left feeling “abandoned” and don’t have a future within the EU. In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Barnier said: “The Olympic Games in Albertville, my hometown, were an extraordinary event, just like Brexit, but there is a big difference between both of them. Brexit is a negative negotiation, a lose-lose divorce, while the Olympics were a positive project.

“The case I mentioned in my book of the man complaining about the Brussels bureaucracy which prevents people from living normal lives is not completely unreasonable.

“But in the 2016 vote against Brussels there are also more serious things: the feeling of being abandoned, of not being considered or protected. The feeling of not having a say, not having a future.

“There are also very British reasons for Brexit: nostalgia, nationalism, the City. But there are also reasons we can find here, such as the popular feeling there is in many French regions.

“The feeling of being isolated, not respected, so we have to be very careful. We have to pay attention to this feeling, we have to understand it.”

This is not the first time Mr Barnier has issued the same warning ahead of next year’s French presidential election.

Since retiring from his role in Brussels, the Frenchman has gone back into domestic politics.

He is building a coalition of conservative politicians hoping to unseat centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Macron is still expected to face-off against eurosceptic leader Marine Le Pen in the final context next April.

Ms Le Pen, leader of National Rally, has positioned herself as the main politician that opposes her rivals pro-Brussels, globalist approach.

The pair are currently neck and neck in the polls.

Mr Barnier is hoping to unite more moderate politicians to oppose the far-right Ms Le Pen.

In April, he said: “We could draw some lessons from Brexit for ourselves. It’s now too late for the UK but not for us.

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“Let us ask ourselves why, this figure of 52 percent at the referendum… 52 percent of citizens voted against Brussels, against the EU, so much so that they actually ended up leaving the Union.”

The Frenchman claimed to have already witnessed similar levels of contempt in the EU in his own country.

He said concerns about migration and the bloc’s external borders were concerns that needed to be addressed.

There is also significant anger over Brussels poor handling of the EU’s snail-paced vaccination rollout.

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Michel Barnier discusses the state of politics in Europe

Mr Barnier added: “There are reasons we can find, not just in the UK, but here in France, in the northern and eastern regions… you know, citizens who want to leave the EU.

“They say the EU did not respond to legitimate desire of citizens, there us social unrest or anger, one might say, because there’s no protection of external borders, some people say, immigration for flows are impacting us…

“And Europe is also often criticised for its red tape and complexity.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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