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The Britain-hating Gallic popinjay with an ego the size of an EU butter mountain trying to derail Brexit: ANDREW PIERCE on EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier

By Andrew Pierce for the Daily Mail

Before making TV appearances during the Brexit talks in Brussels, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is occasionally tempted to seek out one of his most important props: his own reflection.

Gazing at a mirror or pane of glass, he fiddles with his tie- knot, brushes down his jacket and glides his hands through his carefully manicured mane.

Known for his sharp dressing and shiny shoes, the 66-year-old is more than a little vain.

Lord Myners, a City minister in Gordon Brown’s government, recalls meeting Barnier at the Treasury: ‘I saw him in the distance at the end of a corridor. He stopped at every painting and looked at it.

‘He wasn’t looking at the paintings but at his own reflection in the glass, and readjusting his hair at every painting he passed.’

Before making TV appearances during the Brexit talks in Brussels, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is occasionally tempted to seek out one of his most important props: his own reflection

Unfortunately, Barnier also has an ego the size of an EU butter mountain — and that lends him an arrogance entirely unsuited to negotiations in which give-and-take, and even a little humility, is the only way to reach agreement.

His tetchy performance at Monday’s press conference with his opposite number, Brexit Secretary David Davis, showed Barnier living up to his pantomine villain role as frontman for an undemocratic body (with five unelected presidents) which seems determined to punish Britain for leaving the bloc, even if it means punishing the economies of Europe which so desperately want still to trade with the UK.

This week, Barnier arrogantly declared he would not even countenance talk of a post-Brexit trade deal unless the UK coughs up a ‘divorce bill’ that, it has been suggested, could be as high as £74 billion. He warned Davis: ‘We must start negotiating seriously.’

Presumably, Davis was even less enamoured of this patronising nonsense when he learned that Barnier — a ‘director general’ in the EU civil service — is being paid a reputed salary of £214,000, which is £72,000 more than Davis.

The problem with this Gallic popinjay, who believes in a ‘United States of Europe’, is that he cannot conceal a visceral disdain for British values. Indeed, like many French politicians, he has used the phrase ‘Anglo-Saxon’ as a term of abuse.

Anglo-Saxon capitalism’ is spoken of derogatively, as though it is regrettable that the City of London is Europe’s leading financial powerhouse.

It is typical of obstreperous European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to have chosen Barnier, a scourge of the City, to represent Brussels in the Brexit talks.

Presumably, Davis was even less enamoured of this patronising nonsense when he learned that Barnier — a ‘director general’ in the EU civil service — is being paid a reputed salary of £214,000, which is £72,000 more than Davis.

But Barnier hardly had to be convinced to take the job — he arrived in Brussels to lobby Juncker for the role within 48 hours of the Brexit vote.

Juncker himself seems as determined as Barnier to antagonise Britain and punish us for daring to abandon his beloved federalist project. He has derided Brexit preparations as ‘not satisfactory’. But, as always, there are other factors at play.

Instead of acknowledging that Britain has a mighty trading economy which can bring huge benefits to EU nations, Juncker is still sore that David Cameron tried to block his appointment as President of the Commission.

Cameron had sought a candidate of genuine stature rather than Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg (population 580,000).

So perhaps his deployment of Barnier as chief negotiator is a form of revenge: it has certainly infuriated British Eurosceptics, not least because Barnier was seen as a tormentor of the City of London in his previous post as EU financial services commissioner.

When he was appointed in 2009, the then French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, promised Barnier would rein in the ‘freewheeling Anglo-Saxon model of banking’ — in other words, the dynamism that has, on the whole, allowed our financial sector to flourish.

Barnier hardly had to be convinced to take the job — he arrived in Brussels to lobby Juncker for the role within 48 hours of the Brexit vote

Sure enough, Barnier tried to relocate City business and jobs to the eurozone. In 2011, then Bank of England governor Mervyn King smashed his fist on his desk in rage over Barnier’s attempt to restrict King’s power to fix the rules concerning the capital reserves of British-based banks.

Yet despite his ability to rile his British counterparts, Barnier clearly thinks he has the right temperament for the Brexit talks. He once said, referring to his roots in Savoie: ‘I’m a calm mountain man. Maybe that’s a bit similar to British composure.’

At 6ft 2in, he is a keen climber, runner and swimmer. His climbing hobby has led French critics to nickname him le cretin des Alpes — a jibe at his origins in south-east France, where 18th-century locals suffered brain damage caused by dietary deficiencies.

Such sneers are echoed by some EU officials, who — rightly or wrongly — say Barnier is an intellectual lightweight who rarely reads more than the first-page summary of any official documents.

Of course he has his supporters, such as achingly Europhile Nick Clegg, with whom he worked in Brussels 20 years ago.

Tories suspect Barnier has held a grudge against Britain since 2005, when the EU was proposing a new constitution meant to clarify Brussels’s powers — and its limits

When Barnier became the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, the former Lib Dem leader said: ‘He is no friend of the City of London. I think he is going to drive a very hard bargain.’

Tories suspect Barnier has held a grudge against Britain since 2005, when the EU was proposing a new constitution meant to clarify Brussels’s powers — and its limits.

Then British prime minister Tony Blair pledged a referendum to approve or reject the constitution, thus forcing the French to do the same. To the huge embarrassment of the government in which Barnier was foreign minister, the French rejected the constitution and Barnier quit.

One British minister says: ‘He’s been livid with Britain ever since. Brexit has only confirmed his anti-British view.’

His political philosophy was forged watching his cabinet maker father at work. Barnier Sr would say: ‘If you hit a nail, you have to make sure it goes all the way.’ That seems to have been his son’s attitude since the Brexit talks began.

At the end of the first day’s discussions in June, he said: ‘I am not in a frame of mind to make concessions or ask for concessions.’

Barnier’s increasing impatience, as displayed on Monday with David Davis, is a clear sign that he knows his own reputation depends on the outcome of the negotiations

He recently added tartly: ‘I would very much appreciate that, on the UK side, you could find the same spirit to reach a deal with the EU, not against the EU.’ But his confrontational attitude in recent weeks has not helped matters.

Barnier’s increasing impatience, as displayed on Monday with David Davis, is a clear sign that he knows his own reputation depends on the outcome of the negotiations.

While Davis only has to convince the British people and get a deal past Parliament, Barnier must convince the EU’s 27 member governments. So it’s no surprise he is showing signs of tension that everything is not going his way.

Happily for him, he can relax at weekends at his family’s secnic hunting estate in the Centre-Val de Loire region.

There, he likes to perform a bizarre ritual of paying homage to a tree. Kneeling down before a giant oak that dates back to the end of the 16th century, he reaches out to touch the bark.

‘Without being superstitious, I tell myself this oak has seen a lot of people and events passing by,’ he has said.

Trees are, he believes, a powerful reminder of life’s values and the concept of time. Above all, they give humans ‘lessons in humility’.

Barnier certainly could learn a great deal from them.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-4838768/ANDREW-PIERCE-EU-chief-negotiator-Michel-Barnier.html#ixzz4rJcRI4WX

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daneux
Guest

I disagree Pader. The EU is very good at sticking to its rules, when it suits Germany and sometimes France and occasionally a few of the others. It is very good at bending or ignoring its rules when the contrary is the case, as here.

Jane Davies
Guest
Jane Davies

Barnier is a prime example of all that is wrong with todays politicians, vain, self absorbed and overpaid. For this man to even think of spending the thousands of taxpayers hard-earned a year on make-up sums up shows how shallow this man is. Most politicians seem to forget they are the servants of the people, paid by the people to look after the best interests of the people, instead they strut about with huge egos under the impression that they always call the shots and the taxpayers should have no say and quietly do as they are told. Time is… Read more »

Bill
Guest
Bill

Sounds like a loser about to lose yet again.

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