France, brace yourself for Michel Barnier’s triumphant return.
After five years of intense negotiations on the U.K. leaving the EU, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator will soon retire from the European Commission, but not from his motherland’s politics.
Speaking to reporters just weeks after the U.K. and the EU signed a bilateral trade pact, Barnier said he would “go back to France in a few weeks,” and “take back my place” in the conservative Les Républicains party, of which he has been a member for more than 55 years (the party has changed names many times in the course of its history).
A veteran French politician, Barnier was twice a European commissioner and built most of his political credibility in Brussels. He once failed to become president of the Commission, when he ran against Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014.
But for the last five years, he has been integral to the EU’s management of Brexit, earning praise from the 27 leaders for his ability to create consensus and his methodical approach to the negotiations. Le Monde, France’s newspaper of record, recently called him “the French man with the greatest European career since Jacques Delors,” referring to the former Commission president and one of the architects of the EU.
“Unlike the caricatures that certain media or certain British tabloids have made of me, I have never been a Brussels super-technocrat,” Barnier told a group of European journalists in a video interview. “I remain a politician … I will take