Michel Barnier, the EU’s former Brexit negotiator, has shocked Europhiles by launching a stinging attack on the power of the European courts.
In a speech reminiscent of the Vote Leave rhetoric he battled on behalf of Brussels, Barnier – who is running against Emmanuel Macron for the French presidency – said it was time for France to “regain sovereignty” lost to the European judiciary.
Barnier appears to have ramped up his Eurosceptic rhetoric in a bid win over Marine Le Pen voters, as he seeks to take the Elysée for the centre-right Republicans.
“We must regain our legal sovereignty in order to no longer be subjected to the judgements of the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights,” the ex-EU Commissioner said on Thursday.
And he repeated his call for a referendum to impose a five-year moratorium on immigration to France from outside the EU. “We will propose a referendum in September 2022 on the question of immigration,” he told a rally in Nimes.
‘Too much time with Boris?’
Barnier later tweeted to clarify his remarks, claiming he simply wanted to create a “constitutional shield” to give France more power over immigration.
But reactions to his intervention were stunned. “Did he spend too much time with Boris Johnson?” Nathalie Loiseau, a French member of the European Parliament and member of President Emmanuel Macron’s Renew Europe party, asked on Twitter, suggesting he “suggests damaging the law, but just a tiny bit of it? It doesn’t look like him.”
In an interview with the Telegraph, Nigel Farage called Barnier “the biggest hypocrite ever born”.
He was joined by Tory MP Simon Clarke, who said: “This is ironic in the extreme. “Barnier preaching the merits of national sovereignty to curb the over-powerful EU and European Court of Human Rights.”
Michael Fabricant, another Tory MP, added: “This is breathtaking! The hypocrisy! The same Michel Barnier who during the #Brexit negotiations tried to belittle the #UK for demanding control over our courts and our borders. Now he wants the same for France. #Frexit?”
Barnier is running against a number of conservative candidates, each seeking to jump clear of the face to earn the chance to run against Macron and Le Pen.
But according to recent polls, Barnier is languishing towards the back of the pack.
One French MEP, who didn’t want to be named, told Politico that his remarks were “evidence of the toxic character of the primaries. There are several candidates who deep down believe in the same things … but are obliged to stand out. It ends up in a sausage fair.”
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