Michel Barnier slammed by Farage over 'French sovereignty'
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The former Brexit negotiator sparked uproar last night after calling on his country to regain its legal “sovereignty”. He unveiled a strategy for a referendum on halting all non-EU immigration for five years if he wins next year’s presidential election. Mr Barnier also bemoaned the German dominance of the bloc and said France should not be bound by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) or European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on immigration issues.
In his former Brexit role, the Frenchman repeatedly criticised Boris Johnson’s determination to regain control of our own laws and borders.
The Prime Minister and his chief negotiator Lord Frost eventually convinced the bloc to sign up to a trade deal that doesn’t sign Britain up to ECJ oversight.
The Commission refused to comment directly to Mr Barnier’s comments, but insisted the ECJ “applies to all areas where there is EU legislation”.
A spokesman added: “The treaties are very clear. Asylum and migration management is a shared competence between the European Union and the member states on which the European Court of Justice has jurisdiction.”
Mr Barnier was instead urged to move towards a “common European solution”, the official added: “This is what the Commission has proposed in the new pact on migration and asylum.
“The Commission does not determine quotas on migration given that this remains within member states’ competence.”
The spokesman insisted the European Court of Human Rights is at the “heart of the foundation of post-war Europe”.
He added: “It is the guarantor of fundamental rights across our continent.
The European Court of Human Rights guides the principles and values on which the European Union is founded.
According to the treaty: “All member states are parties to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”
Mr Barnier has been heavily criticised for his eurosceptic approach to next April’s French presidential election.
He has announced himself as a centre-right candidate to challenge President Emmanuel Macron.
At a rally, Mr Barnier said: “We must regain our legal sovereignty.
“We will propose a referendum on the issue of immigration.”
After sparking fury, the Frenchman later issued a clarification, insisting he was only promoting freedom from the EU courts as a “constitutional shield” on matters to do with non-EU immigration.
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Freedom of movement, which is open to EU nationals in the bloc, would continue under his proposal.
However, his plan would stop all non-EU residency permit requests for up to five years, except asylum seekers and students.
Former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said Mr Barnier was the “biggest hypocrite ever born” for making eurosceptic proposals despite championing the EU for so long.
Conservative MP Simon Clarke said: “This is ironic in the extreme.
“Barnier preaching the merits of national sovereignty to curb the over-powerful EU and the European Court of Human Rights.”
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Michel Barnier discusses the state of politics in Europe
Fellow Tory Michael Fabricant accused Mr Barnier of “breathtaking hypocrisy” and suggested the former Brexit negotiator was promoting a “Frexit” from the EU.
He added: “This is the same Michel Barnier who during the Brexit negotiations tried to belittle the the UK for demanding control over our courts and and borders.
“Now he wants the same for France.”
Mr Barnier won plaudits for his time as the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator.
But his eurosceptic comments have left former admirers unconvinced about his European credentials.
Mujtaba Rahman, of risk analysts Eurasia Group, said Mr Barnier was “embarrassing himself, and the rest of Europe”.
An EU diplomat, who worked closely with the Frenchman on Brexit, said: “Irony, long considered one of the chief qualities distinguishing mankind from the lower orders, died today on the French Republican stage at the hand of the Brexit negotiator.”
Clement Beaune, France’s European affairs minister and a close ally of President Macron, said: “One wonders how a sentence like that can come from such a committed European.”
Julien Hoez, of the European Liberal Forum, said: “Michel Barnier is giving a masterclass on how to destroy your career and legacy in the desperate hope of looking electable to an electorate that just straight up dislikes you regardless.”
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