N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
Speaking at a campaign event in Nimes, Michel Barnier told his audience that he, if been elected French President, would propose a referendum on a so-called ‘constitutional shield’ on immigration issues. That would allow the French to avoid the supremacy of the EU courts. According to Barnier, that would be a question for the French to regaining their ‘legal sovereignty’ from the EU. He is pitching himself firmly to the French right with his bid to lead his party, Les Republicaines, into next year’s Presidential elections.
Some eurocrats in Brussels called it ‘cherry picking’ France’s EU membership. A term EU Chief negotiator Barnier used whether appropriate or inappropriate to indicate the positioning of the UK during the Brexit negotiations. A high priest of EU policies tumbled down from his pedestal. Barnier did not only play a main roll in the Brexit negotiations, he has also previously been Commissioner for Regional Policy and later Commissioner for the Internal Market. As an MEP, he was President of the French delegation of the EPP and in French politics he was Minister of European Affairs.
The situation that presents itself to the French voters is now, that should Barnier win the nomination of the Republican party for the French Presidency, he would not be the pro-EU choice on the ballot paper. But will it be enough to secure support of those on Marine Le Pen’s side? Barnier’s turncoat politics will probably not play out well for the Presidential hopeful in what could be seen as his last throw of the dice for one of the top positions in EU domestic politics.
On the other hand, a Eurosceptic as one of the most powerful leaders in the EU? It could bring a refreshing new tone in the monotonous ‘more EU’ debate.