Colin Brazier: Michel Barnier's presidential campaign sounds like one of Nigel Farage's greatest hits
'Michel Barnier, the Frenchman who did his best to thwart Brexit, has turned all Eurosceptical.'
Not since Saul saw the light on the road to Damascus has there been a conversion like it.
Michel Barnier, the Frenchman who did his best to thwart Brexit, has turned all Eurosceptical.
He’s standing to be the next President of France.
And it seems all those years spent arguing and teasing and frustrating the Brits over Brexit effected a change of heart that nobody could have foreseen.
He’s now campaigning for the French to take back control of their borders and regain legal sovereignty.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like one of Nigel Farage’s greatest hits.
Barnier’s also advocating a referendum and taking the Germans down a peg or two.
He says Berlin has too much influence in the EU’s corridors of power. And he should know. He spent long enough pacing them.
Is this just tactical?
Barnier is the underdog in France’s presidential campaign.
He might have spotted a gap in the electoral market.
Appealing to French voters who see Marine Le Pen as too hardline and Emmanuel Macron as insufficiently patriotic.
Well, whatever his motivation, if Brexit had been the disaster Brussels predicted, it’s unthinkable that he’d now be peddling policies straight from the Brexit playbook.
What must Remainers make of Barnier’s extraordinary U-turn?
There can’t be many left keeping the faith, not now their high priest has lost his.
A few Remainers remain, a little like those Japanese soldiers discovered on Pacific islands still fighting World War Two, years after peace broke out.
Remoaners like the novelist Hilary Mantel who was in the headlines this week for saying she was applying for an Irish passport in order to become a European again, whatever that means. She described Brexiteers, all 17.4 million of us, as “callow opportunists, insincere and devious and often ridiculous”.
Not exactly language designed to heal the wounds of an often bitter debate about EU membership that divided friend from friend. Maybe she’d be better off in Ireland after all.
Remainers may not like it, but Barnier’s change of heart is a welcome endorsement of the principles on which the Brexit cause was founded.
We may have been characterized as mindless xenophobes but for many of us the argument was a bit more nuanced than that.
For me, living and reporting in Brussels, opened my eyes to a basic truth; that the indivisible unit of governance is the nation state and any attempt at trying to subvert that, by creating an artificial superstate, is doomed to failure.It turns out that even Barnier believes that too.
The most urbane salesman for the EU was peddling snake-oil all along.
He didn’t believe in the EU project he was selling. It can be little wonder the British people didn’t either.