The EU’s former hardline Brexit negotiator, who criticised his British counterparts for “cherry-picking” during negotiations, appears to have embraced Euroscepticism, demanding the return of France’s sovereignty from European courts to control immigration.
Mr Barnier, a former European Commissioner and former French foreign minister, is campaigning to be the candidate for the right-wing Republicans party ahead of France’s 2022 presidential elections.
Challenging four other candidates, Mr Barnier said during a party gathering in Nîmes on Thursday that in order to control immigration, France must “regain legal sovereignty” from the EU’s European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) — the latter belonging to a non-EU body, namely the Council of Europe.
“On immigration, we must regain our legal sovereignty, so we are no longer subject to the judgments of the ECJ or the ECtHR. We will propose a referendum in September  on the question of immigration,” Barnier, 70, is quoted as saying by an official Republicans account on Twitter.
During UK-EU negotiations, Barnier called for the deal to remain subject to the ECJ and secured commitments that Brexit Britain would remain part of the ECtHR, which oversees the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Unsurprisingly, figures in British government and politics criticised Barnier, who had told Britain in May 2020 that the EU would not accept “cherry-picking” in Brexit negotiations, for only just now noticing that EU membership restricts national sovereignty and appearing to want to extricate France from part of the bloc’s legal frameworks.
“It is good to see that he found our arguments so compelling,” one government figure told The Times.
Eurocrat Doesn’t Like Britain’s ‘Tone’, Rejects Calls for a Better Trade Deal https://t.co/UyYcKJwlb4
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 21, 2020
Brexit leader Nigel Farage told The Telegraph that Barnier was the “biggest hypocrite ever born”, while Conservative MP Michael Fabricant accused Barnier of “breathtaking hypocrisy”.
“This is 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,” Mr Fabricant said, according to the Daily Mail.
Appearing too Eurosceptic, Politico reports that following a French media and social media storm, Barnier went into ‘damage control mode’, tweeting requests for “calm” and that his proposal for a “‘constitutional shield’ will only apply to migration policy”.
Earlier this year, the presidential hopeful appeared to make a turn towards Euroscepticism and called for a three- to five-year moratorium on immigration from outside of the European Union, criticising the security of the bloc’s external border, which he said had been reduced to a “sieve”, as he launched his election campaign on an anti-mass migration platform.
The Telegraph notes that Barnier would have “little chance” of being elected ahead of the pro-European Union incumbent President, Emmanuel Macron, or the veteran anti-mass migration candidate of the populist National Rally, Marine Le Pen.
Farage Says ‘Impact of Brexit Is Just Beginning’ as Barnier Backs Immigration Ban in France https://t.co/CStVxS3G66
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 12, 2021