Au revoir Michel Barnier, who leaves the European Commission with pith, praise – and a book deal

Tue 6 Apr 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Michel BarnierPhoto credit: CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2020 – Source: EP

Michel Barnier last week left the European Commission after 15 years as a Brussels power-broker-in-chief. 

There was respect from the Daily Telegraph, who hailed Barnier as “a comparative rock of stability” following four-and-a-half years fronting the EU’s Brexit negotiations with the UK.

The face of the EU

Having lobbied hard to land the role in the wake of the 2016 referendum, Barnier’s remit made him that most rare of things: a European politician with pan-EU recognition. 

Avoiding a no-deal scenario and “keeping 27 member states broadly on board with the EU position for so long” were considerable achievements, wrote James Crisp, Europe editor at the Telegraph. 

But the paper said Barnier’s refusal to negotiate on specific sectors “until there was progress on the three toughest areas” held up the final EU-UK trade deal.  

Long-term consequences

Fintech Zoom reported that in a farewell speech in Zurich last week, Barnier said “the real consequences of the [UK] referendum [in 2016] are only now starting to sink in”.

He added: “The reality, which has become clear for all to see, is that Brexit means recreating trade barriers that had not existed for 47 years.”

However, he also paid tribute to the UK’s vaccination programme while taking a veiled swipe at the comparative efforts of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Memoirs

There are rumours of a possible Barnier presidential bid in next year’s French elections but before that come his Brexit memoirs.  

La grande illusion: journal secret du Brexit (2016-2020) is Barnier’s long-awaited account of the Brexit negotiations, reported Bloomberg, with a publication date of 6 May.