The EU’s former Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said Britain made a mistake in its Brexit strategy.
r Barnier’s Brexit diary has been published in English. One of the main themes throughout the book is the unity between the 27 member states of the EU.
In an interview on RTÉ One’s Prime Time tonight, Mr Barnier was asked if it was difficult to keep all 27 member states on the same page.
“I think the Brits made a mistake in their strategy because they tried to divide us or to bypass my team to engage directly with the member states and it was a mistake. I was negotiator and they did not understand the mandate I received, and I followed,” he said.
“Each national concern had to be taken on board by the other member states. Unanimity has been a tool or leverage for unity and finally it was my daily work. I tried to build this unity every day by very specific methods which was transparency, total transparency.
“We said everything to everybody at the same time and that’s the reason why we have built this personal trust between the member states, parliament and my team,” he said.
Mr Barnier outlined a meeting with Leo Varadkar in February 2019 in his book where he emphasised the importance of keeping the single market intact.
Mr Barnier said there had to be a border either on or around the Island of Ireland or there could be a possibility of Ireland being excluded from the single market.
“For me it’s impossible to exclude one member state because of Brexit, the single market is our current asset including Ireland. It’s the reason why for three and a half years we tried to find a solution with the Brits and finally we found a solution with them.
“We succeeded to get the majority in the House of Commons and finally with Boris Johnston knew exactly what he signed at the time there was no surprise,” he said.
He added: “I left this job nine months ago and what I hope is that the content of this protocol will be respected, and no other option can be on the table – in my view. This protocol is a solution to the problem created by Brexit in Ireland, we have to be clear and firm with the Brits but there is no way in my view to accept any renegotiation on this protocol.”
Mr Barnier begins and ends his book with a warning about the future of the EU and the “burden of EU standards on our lives”.
When asked if other countries will leave, he said: “There is always a risk and we have to be careful there are lessons to draw from Brexit, it is not a small event leaving the EU is very serious, so we have to understand the reasons.
“Obviously, they’re British domestic reasons but also common reasons in some regions include the social anger and the popular feeling,” he said.
Mr Barnier is running for the French presidency next year and has proposed that France introduce a quota on immigrants coming into France.
“We’re speaking about migration coming from third world countries outside Europe. I’ve never spoken about the freedom of movement inside Europe. I never want to end the freedom of movement I never want my country leaving the EU.
“I do not propose a special policy for France, my policy is a shared policy between the member states and the EU. I just want my country to be able to take some decisions for its own security. I want France to work with the other member states on the current policies for migration,” he said.
He added: “Today the migration policy does not work at a national level so when the policies don’t work the responsibility of the politician is to change and to give answers. We want to put all the procedures that don’t work on the table to change and improve them.”