EU negotiator Barnier spills Brexit secrets in new book

Author : gnehad
Publish Date : 2021-05-05 18:47:01
EU negotiator Barnier spills Brexit secrets in new book

From the moment Michel Barnier was made the EU's chief Brexit negotiator in July 2016 he was at the heart of talks to reach a deal with the UK government.

Mr Barnier watched his opposite numbers come and go as the EU and UK first agonised over the terms of a transition deal and then later concluded a trade agreement.

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But what can we learn from his 500 pages of memoirs about the turbulent talks and what he thought of his UK counterparts?

A quick guide to what's in the Brexit deal
The British bulldozer
Unlike in many political diaries, Mr Barnier resists the urge to paint vindictive pen portraits of those with whom he crosses paths. But he certainly lets us know what he made of them.

He's wary of underestimating new Prime Minister Boris Johnson despite all the comic bluff and bluster. In September 2019, he perceives him to be "advancing like a bulldozer" - determined to flatten opposition.

Maybe Mr Johnson was reading his mind, as just three months later he jumped into a JCB and careered through a fake brick ball, vowing to "Get Brexit Done."The Brexiteers and their 'famous red bus'
As for the triumphant Brexiteers who subsequently entered Downing Street, Mr Barnier simply does not trust them.

The quote from King Lear "Bring in Madness, banish Reason!" features prominently and Mr Barnier doesn't shift in his assessment that leaving the EU makes no sense.

As for those outside government who were instrumental in the 2016 EU referendum, the then UKIP leader Nigel Farage is viewed as a comical, but dangerous figure.When on a private tour of a European Commission building in Brussels, Mr Barnier asks Mr Farage what he wants from Brexit, and he replies: "Mr Barnier, after Brexit, the EU will no longer exist."

Frosty reception
It's clear Mr Barnier didn't hit it off with Lord Frost, his final British counterpart in the negotiations.

He's not impressed when Frost turns up 45 minutes late for lunch, apparently without explanation. Frost then informs him in a "somewhat arrogant tone" that all the important stuff in their negotiations will be dealt with by the prime minister and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

Mr Barnier later writes that Lord Frost badly advised Prime Minister Johnson on the dynamic of the European Council and "to save face, he therefore creates drama" by temporarily walking away from the negotiation table.There was no real thawing in the relationship, judging from Mr Barnier's entries. Even on the day the post-Brexit trade deal was signed, their final exchange is "professional and cold".

Mr Barnier thinks he got the last laugh though: "He knows that I know that until the last moment he wanted to bypass me by seeking to open a parallel negotiating line with the cabinet of President Ursula von der Leyen. And he knows it hasn't been successful."

Theresa's tactics
Mr Barnier watches with increasing incredulity as then-Prime Minister Theresa May gives her Lancaster House speech in January 2017. He realises she is "about to reveal nothing less than all of her red lines, even though we have not started negotiating".

He's deeply sceptical that ruling out so many options will be welcomed in the UK. "Are we certain that the referendum vote gave the British government a blank check for such a clean break?"

Mr Barnier appears to respect Theresa May's straightforward style but laments her lack of flexibility.

He expresses sympathy at her "humiliation" at the hands of a "rampant" British tabloid press - a beast he clearly monitors with varying degrees of bemusement, shock and disappointment.



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