A divorce between the EU and one of its members “can happen elsewhere if we’re not paying attention,” former chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday, adding that one of the lessons he learned in the job was a need for “less bureaucracy, more democracy” in Brussels.
“I’ve just been handling for four and a half years an unlikely event that occurred, and I think other unlikely events — here in our country, the election of Mrs. Le Pen … can occur just as well,” Barnier told France Inter while promoting his new book, “The Grand Illusion: A Secret Diary of Brexit.”
“In Brussels and Paris alike, it is urgent that we demonstrate the added value of the European project,” he said. “Maybe — and it’s a suggestion I’m making for the upcoming French presidency next year — there will be a need to assess each European competency and policy to see which ones still have an added value and which ones don’t have that anymore. Where competencies ought to be given back to states.”
“What might be a positive” to take from the Brexit process “is the warning signal it represents,” Barnier said. “But frankly, Brexit is a lose-lose situation. It’s a divorce. No one can say a divorce is positive. It’s a weakening … for us, who are amputated of this country … and for the United Kingdom, which finds itself on its own, in distant waters, facing the United States, China and Russia.”
Asked to comment on the speedy British vaccination campaign and the slower European effort, Barnier reckoned there were “administrative problems, bureaucracy … and an almost-ideological mistrust of private-public partnerships” in the EU. “We don’t know how to take risks. The British took risks by financing the private sector. The Americans took risks. We don’t know how to do this.”