Michel Barnier, 70, announced his plans to take on President Emmanuel Macron in an interview with French broadcaster TF1. Soon after, Britons gave their verdict on Brussels’ former chief Brexit negotiator throwing his hat into the ring for 2022.
During Barnier’s announcement, he told TF1: “In these dark times, I took the decision to run for the French presidency, to be president of a reconciled France.”
The ex-Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries is running on a platform committed to reducing immigration into France and is for standing up for French sovereignty.
Barnier, who helped organise the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, even suggested France halts immigration from non-EU member states.
He said: “I think we have to take the time for three or five years to suspend immigration.”
“Overall, immigration policy does not work in Europe as it does not work in France. That’s why I’m making this moratorium proposal,” Barnier added.
Given his role in UK-EU trade talks, many Britons voiced their opposition to the centre-right candidate’s bid.
One Brit wrote on Twitter: “Le hypocrite.”
While ardent Remainer lawyer Steve Peers said Barnier’s limits only on non-EU immigration absolve him from accusations of hypocrisy, others were not convinced.
But channelling the accusations Brussels made about Britain during negotiations, one user wrote on Twitter: “Sounds a lot like cherry picking to me.”
The right-leaning online blog Guido Fawkes went as far as to make Mr Barnier a mock Vote Leave campaign poster from 2016.
It read: “Vote Barnier – Take back control”
Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign group founded by Arron Banks and Reform leader Richard Tice, jokingly Tweeted: “It sounds like some common sense rubbed off on him during the Brexit talks.”
READ MORE: French polling guru predicts Macron could lose 2022 Presidential Election
In the Ifop poll, just eight percent of respondents said they would vote for Mr Barnier.
But Paul Nuttall, the ex-UKIP MEP for the North West, has said he wouldn’t bet against the ex-EU official has what it takes to defeat Macron.
Whether or not Brits should back Barnier’s bid has also split opinion.
The Spectator’s Matthew Lynn argued a Barnier victory would be a “disaster” for Britain but French-born journalist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet wrote in The Telegraph that Brits should hope the “ogre of Brexit” beats Macron in 2022.
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