The European Union’s former top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has called on France to restore its legal sovereignty by bringing the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights to heel, in yet another spectacular move in his increasingly Eurosceptic campaign to become French President.
“On immigration, we must regain our legal sovereignty so that we are no longer subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights” said Barnier, who negotiated Britain’s continued members of the European Court of Human Rights during Brexit talks.
He also insisted he would demand a September referendum on curbing migration into France if he were to win next year’s presidential race against heavyweights Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.
Former UKIP MEP Patrick O’Flynn joked: “So funny that all the time Barnier was badmouthing Brexit for negotiating purposes, he was really thinking: ‘Hey, this all sounds pretty cool actually.'”
And Tory MP Michael Fabricant also chimed in: “This is breathtaking! The hypocrisy! The same Michel Barnier who during the Brexit negotiations tried to belittle the UK for demanding control over our courts and our borders. Now he wants the same for France. Frexit?”
Barnier, who is running to take the centre-right Republican nomination for the election, has already called for a harsh crackdown on immigration – including demands for the EU’s Schengen free movement policies to be reformed. Under his preferred plan, France would have a complete moratorium on all non-EU migration for five years.
The former Eurocrat is hoping to appeal to a growing segment of disaffected French voters tiring of Emmanuel Macron’s cosmopolitan political project – but he may struggle to make an impact against the sturdy figure of Marine Le Pen, who remains the most popular right-wing politician in France.
Virtually all opinion polls conducted in recent years show the final head-to-head second round showdown coming down to incumbent Emmanuel Macron and nationalist firebrand Le Pen – a rematch from 2017, where Macron won nearly two thirds of the vote, but with surveys now showing the race significantly tighter.
One survey from earlier this year showed Le Pen just two points away from securing the French presidency on 48% – way up on her 33% performance four years ago.