Barnier the Brexiteer? French candidate gets tough with EU on campaign trail

A referendum on immigration and complaints about a loss of sovereignty to the EU. Michel Barnier will be familiar with those arguments after years spent negotiating with the Brits over Brexit — but now he’s making the exact same points himself.

Barnier — who late last month announced he wanted to be the conservative candidate in next year’s French presidential election — on Thursday called for “a referendum on the question of immigration” and said France “must regain our legal sovereignty in order to no longer be subject to the judgments” of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights (the latter of which is not a European Union institution, as any good Brexit negotiator will know).

Speaking at an event by his Les Républicains party in Nîmes, Barnier also pushed for greater French power in Europe, saying: “We have to rebuild the French influence. It is necessary to rebalance vis-à-vis the German influence which dominates.”

Barnier was speaking at the event alongside fellow conservative candidates Valérie Pécresse, who is head of the Paris region, MP Éric Ciotti and doctor and former MEP Philippe Juvin. The former Cabinet minister and European commissioner may be a big name in Brussels and London but his profile in France isn’t high and he’s a long shot to get the conservative nomination for the election.

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