The EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator has called for a halt to immigration across Europe for up to five years.
French politician Michel Barnier said immigration in the EU was “not working” – and claimed that the bloc’s external borders had become a “sieve”.
“I think we have to take the time for three or five years to suspend immigration,” he said during an appearance on French television.
“I’m not talking about students or refugees, who we need to treat with humanity and care, but we need to examine all the procedures, we have to discuss Schengen with our neighbours, we have to apply controls on borders, we need to be more rigorous.”
Barnier added that there were “links” between immigration and “terrorist networks that infiltrate migrational flows”.
When questioned whether his comments tarnish his reputation as a political moderate, Barnier denied changing his views.
He said: “The problems of immigration are not moderate. I know, as the politician that I am, to see the problems how they are and how French people experience them and to find solutions.”
Quite something. Barnier wants to suspend all immigration to France and open a debate on Schengen/EU borderless travel sone https://t.co/CMv9NusyPM— Bruno Waterfield, Brussels (@BrunoBrussels) May 11, 2021
Last week, Barnier’s long-trailed diaries revealed his belief that the UK’s post-Brexit fate was decided by “the quarrels, low blows, multiple betrayals and thwarted ambitions of a certain number of Tory MPs.
In The Great Illusion, his 500-page account of the Brexit saga, Barnier diagnoses Britain’s initial issue was that they started negotiations by “talking to themselves. And they underestimate the legal complexity of this divorce, and many of its consequences.”
But the talking soon turned to Tory party infighting – and by the end, the Brexit process had become “political piracy… They will go to any length. The current team in Downing St is not up to the challenges of Brexit nor to the responsibility that is theirs for having wanted Brexit. Simply, I no longer trust them.”
Addressing Brexiteers like Nigel Farage, Barnier asserts that they behaved “ irresponsibly, with regard to the national interests of their own country. How else could they call on people to make such a serious choice without explaining or detailing to them its consequences?”
On Boris Johnson, he wrote: “Although his posturing and banter leave him open to it, it would be dangerous to underestimate Johnson.” But he accuses the prime minister of “advancing like a bulldozer, manifestly trying to muscle his way forwards”.
As late as May 2020, Barnier notes his surprise that the UK is still demanding “a simple Canada-type trade dal” while retaining single market benefits “in innumerable sectors”. In Britain, he writes, there remains “real incomprehension, in Britain, of the objective, sometimes mechanical consequences of its choices”.
Talks on post-Brexit trade deal are also described as a rollercoaster. The theatre of the internal market bill – described by Barnier as “a clear breach of international law” – was followed by “almost infantile” and “derisory” threats to walk away over the EU’s demands for a level playing field.