French politics: EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says he is going to return to French politics in coming weeks
Former European Commissioner and EU’s chief Brexit negotiator is planning to return to French politics. Weeks after the EU and UK agreed on the much-awaited post-Brexit trade deal, Barnier has expressed his intentions to go back to France and take his place in the Les Républicains party. The 69-year-old politician, who had previously served the French government as a Foreign Minister and agriculture fisheries minister, has been a member of the party for over 55 years now.
For the last five years, Barnier has been leading the EU’s team in numerous rounds of negotiations with Britain with the aim of reaching a Brexit trade deal.
In a recent video interview, Barnier stated that he will go back to his home country in a few weeks to take back his place in French politics. The veteran politician also confirmed that he will not be joining President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist movement La République en Marche (LREM), instead would return to the right-wing Les Republicains.
“I will try to add my stone to my political family which needs to be rebuilt, and to the French political debate,” he told French radio.
However, he chose not to answer a question related to speculations that he is looking to challenge Macron in the 2022 presidential elections.
With France’s presidential elections less than two years away, President Macron’s popularity has suffered a substantial downfall in recent months. Amid this development, he is seeking re-election in 2022 after his LREM defeated Les Républicains in the 2017 presidential polls. Notably, the main center-right party of the European nation, Les Républicains, has been in chaos in the absence of a prominent leader.
After years of working on Brexit, Barnier is all set to retire from the European Commission on January 31. However, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen can reportedly ask him to stay back to carry out parliamentary ratification of the Brexit deal, noting that MEPs are yet to approve the trade agreement in the coming weeks. Ursula von der Leyen and Barnier have not yet discussed when the final ratification can take place.
Meanwhile, EU and UK negotiators concluded the long-running talks and agreed on a post-Brexit trade deal on December 24. With a trade deal in place, Britain left the single market and customs union of the EU on December 31.