The heavy pro-European Union supporter was the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom from 2019 until 2021, leading tense and often bitter Brexit negotiations as Britain departed the bloc. In August, Michel Barnier announced his candidacy for President of France in the 2022 presidential election and is currently running for The Republicans presidential nomination. During the two year period negotiating Brexit for the EU, Mr Barnier was well known for strongly defending the bloc’s principle of freedom of movement.
But he has raised several eyebrows in Brussels with repeated calls for a referendum on bringing in a five-year moratorium on immigration to France from outside the EU.
Mr Barnier said: “We will propose a referendum in September 2022 on the question of immigration.”
Separately, the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator also insisted France must regain its “legal sovereignty in order to no longer be subject to the judgments” of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights.
But now he has admitted the immigration policy currently in place in France is simply not working, adding he would like to “review all the procedures, the granting of residence permits which are misused or abused, expulsions which are not carried out”.
Mr Barnier said during an interview with CNEWS: “The immigration policy does not work in France.
“It is to the detriment of the unity of our country, the serenity of our country and at the same time to the detriment of the people who come to us and who are poorly received; sometimes we even see it in the Mediterranean in an undignified and dangerous way,” he said.
“I would like us to recreate the conditions to reach a consensus on this issue.
“To review all the procedures, the granting of residence permits which are misused or abused, expulsions which are not carried out.
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“When something doesn’t work, even if it makes a certain number of Europeanists shout, I say that things must be changed.”
Mr Barnier is ramping up the pressure to oust Mr Macron from power, with just over six months until the upcoming presidential election.
Earlier this month, a French politics expert has told Express.co.uk Mr Macron is “worried about Michel Barnier” in the French presidential election race and questioning whether the former Brexit negotiator could steal votes in the centre-ground.
Dr Paul Smith, who is an Associate Professor in French History and Politics at the University of Nottingham, told Express.co.uk the current French President will be “worried” about Mr Barnier.
He said: “I think he might be worried about Barnier if he thinks that Barnier can occupy the same terrain.”
Dr Smith said recent comments from Mr Barnier in which he has taken a hard-line the EU, sovereignty in France and immigration could win over those in his own party and right-wing portions of the French electorate.
However, he also said that, despite his comments, the former Brexit negotiator was not far away from the centrism of Mr Macron.
The academic added: “If you have a lot of candidates, then some of them are going to steal votes from others.
“We saw this in 2002 when it didn’t become a left-right second round.
“Essentially, there were four candidates who, at the end of the first round, were within two to three percentage points of each other, essentially the electorate was split four ways.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.