The EU’s former chief negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier, plans to stand as a right-wing candidate against Emmanuel Macron in next year’s French presidential elections, saying that limiting immigration would be a key policy pledge.
“In these grave times, I have taken the decision and have the determination to stand … and be the president of a France that is reconciled, to respect the French and have France respected,” he told the evening news show of TF1 television in a live interview.
Barnier, who is entering an increasingly crowded field on the right, cited his long experience in politics as giving him an edge in the race including the “extraordinary” negotiations to find a deal on Britain’s exit from the European Union. He said during the years-long process he had to work “with heads of state and government to preserve the unity of all the European countries”.
Asked why he wanted to challenge Macron – with whom he had worked closely in the Brexit process – Barnier replied that he wanted to “change the country”.
Seeking to strike a more right-wing tone than the centrist president, he spoke of needing to “restore the authority of the state” as well as “limit and have control over immigration”, reaffirming a proposal for a moratorium on immigration.
Before becoming the Brexit chief negotiator in 2016, Barnier had served as EU commissioner for the internal market from 2010-2014. But the 70-year-old is also a veteran of French politics, having held several top posts including foreign minister in a cabinet career dating back to the 1990s.
Barnier is a member of the right-wing the Republicans and the most prominent of four candidates from the party to have declared their intention to stand. The party may organise a primary later this year if no obvious frontrunner emerges.