The European negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, offers with the publication of his newspaper a devastating portrait of the British conservatives for the way in which they devised, planned and negotiated the exit of their country from the European Union.
The book, which was published this Thursday in France under the title ‘The great illusion. Brexit secret diary“, offers over 500 pages his impressions and almost daily reflections of the process, peppered with criticism of different British officials.RELATED
For Barnier, Brexit supporters “underestimated” from the beginning “the legal complexity of this divorce and many of its consequences,” often negative for their own country.
Following the surprise “yes” victory in the June 23, 2016 referendum that cost Prime Minister David Cameron his job, his successor Theresa May presented her priorities for the Brexit negotiation in the so-called “Lancaster speech“, in January 2017.
Barnier then shows his “astonishment” at how May reveals all her red lines and negotiating cards in that speech, closing many doors, “before having started to negotiate.”
Despite this, she acknowledges that the then prime minister – forced to resign after the wing in favor of a “hard Brexit” in her own party voted in Parliament against her proposals and her strategy – is “a brave and tenacious woman” , although “quite rigid”. Instead, she believes that May was “surrounded by men who put their personal interests ahead of those of their country.”
Equally acid is the former European commissioner with other conservative figures, such as the current head of the Government, Boris Johnson, whom he describes as “baroque”, or the former secretary of state and notorious “Brexiter” Dominic Raab, defined as “almost messianic”.
He also criticizes how at times, Lord Frost, another of the chief negotiators with whom he had to deal, blocked the negotiations while trying to open a parallel dialogue at a higher level between Johnson and the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen.
As its name indicates, the book is in the form of a diary, with small daily notes in which the news of the day is noted.
In them, Barnier explains what it was like to negotiate such a crucial issue in the midst of the chaos that London experienced during those years: two general elections, two prime ministers, several foreign officials and different negotiating teams, with the Westminster Parliament voting for sometimes conflicting motions.
At one point, when Johnson warned last September 8 that his government was keeping the right to not respect the commitments already agreed, the French politician speaks of “political filibuster” and “betrayal of the given word.”
“I think the team that is currently at 10 Downing Street is not up to the task,” shoots Barnier, adding immediately after: “I don’t trust them.”
Faced with the disaster that he outlines at the top levels of the London Government, Barnier highlights the professionalism and seriousness of British career officials, including Olly Robbins, who was the main Brexit negotiator between 2017 and 2019, when he left the Government “frustrated and bitter “to go to private banking.
The book also does not leave former US President Donald Trump in a good place, recalling his visit to Ireland in June 2019, in which the then tenant of the White House spoke that Brexit would be a good opportunity for the small country: “I think that everything will be fine and your wall, your border will be solved “.
Diplomatically, the then Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, was quick to remind him that what his country was trying to avoid was precisely “a border or wall” between its territory and Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom.
The publication of the book opens another front, in this case internally, as it marks Barnier’s return to domestic politics with ambitions that point to the top, according to several interviews published this week.
Barnier, a former minister with presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, does not rule out his 70-year-old running for the presidential elections of 2022 as of next fall, in an attempt to unite the political right and try to reach the second round.