LONDON — Britain must comply with the Northern Ireland protocol and the fishing chapter of the Brexit trade deal for relations with France to improve, according to Michel Barnier.
Speaking during a Chatham House event in London Tuesday, the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator said he shares the “disappointment” felt by other French politicians after Australia scrapped a multibillion submarine deal with France in order to enter a new defense alliance with the U.S. and the U.K. known as AUKUS.
Warning that the levels of trust between Paris and London are at a record low, Barnier said the behavior of these three countries “was not correct” for France. For trust to be restored, the U.K. needs to show its European partners that it is willing to comply with the terms of the Brexit deal, in particular on Northern Ireland trade and fishing, he added.
“Brexit is done. One key issue for us in France … is about the right implementation of what we have agreed with the Brits, not only on the peace in [Northern] Ireland but also on fisheries. This point is important.”
Commenting on the state of the British-French bilateral relationship, Barnier added: “For the moment I have a lot of concern and I’m not the only one in France. There are too many points of disappointment on our side.”
Barnier, who was in London to promote the English version of his Brexit book, also defended himself from accusations he’s been seduced by far right positions on migration, after he proposed a moratorium on migration into the EU from third countries.
He stressed that unlike prominent Brexiteers such as Nigel Farage, he does not wish to see France leaving the EU or abolishing freedom of movement — which he described as one of the big successes of the union.
“I have nothing to do with the extreme right,” Barnier said. “You’ll never find points of proximity between me and the extreme right. I just try to look at the problems and find solutions precisely to avoid that the solutions of the extreme right in my country will be implemented.”