Barnier warns of ‘other Brexits’ if no EU immigration overhaul

Then EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier takes part in a meeting of ambassadors of European Union governments in Brussels in this file picture taken on December 7, 2020. — Pool pic via Reuters
Then EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier takes part in a meeting of ambassadors of European Union governments in Brussels in this file picture taken on December 7, 2020. — Pool pic via Reuters

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PARIS, Sept 15 — Former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who is running for president in France, warned today that other states would follow Britain and leave the European Union unless it reformed its immigration rules. 

“Those who think Brexit is behind us, that negotiations went well and we can get back to business as usual, are making a very serious mistake,” the former EU commissioner told French weekly Le Point.

“If nothing changes, there will be other Brexits,” he said.

Barnier, who is seeking the presidential nomination for the right-wing Republicans party ahead of next April’s election, sparked surprise last week after calling for France to free itself from European court oversight.

At an event for the Republicans (LR) party on Thursday, the renowned Europhile reiterated his call for a moratorium on immigration to France and pledged new rules to make it more difficult for people to settle permanently in the country.

“We can’t do all of this without getting our judicial independence back,” he said.

Barnier hit back at critics who accused him of betraying his career-long commitment to the EU model, which requires states to respect European laws upheld by the European Court of Justice. 

“I was European before these people and will be so afterwards — I don’t need any lessons on European commitment,” he said.

As the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Barnier won praise for the way he led talks with Britain, frequently lauding the bloc’s collective power over London’s go-it-alone nationalism.

He is currently seen as an outsider in the race to clinch the nomination for the Republicans, but the party has not yet decided how to choose its candidate to challenge President Emmanuel Macron in next April’s vote.

Immigration is emerging as one of the key themes of early campaigning, with Barnier joining traditional far-right leader Marine Le Pen and pundit-turned-politician Eric Zemmour in calling for stricter controls. — AFP

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