Brexit EU negotiating team profile: EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier

Newington's Tiffany Burrows and Katie Milne profile Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator.

Age: 65

Background: Michel Barnier is the EU’s veteran diplomat. He started his career in the offices of various Gaullist ministers, before being elected to the French National Assembly and serving in the French Cabinet. Transitioning to Brussels, Barnier has the high profile posts of European Commissioner for Regional Policy, and Internal Market and Services under his belt.

Experience: 39 years

Barnier rose to prominence after being elected aged just 27 to the French National Assembly. He then first joined the French cabinet in 1993 as Minister of the Environment and was made Secretary of State for European Affairs in 1995 by Jacques Chirac. The latter position propelled Barnier into a close and sustained relationship with Brussels, leading him to serve twice as France’s European Commissioner from 1999-2004 and again from 2010-2014.

Red tape rating: 5/5

Given his numerous roles in national and European politics, Barnier has a wealth of experience and faith in EU bureaucracy. He has taken aim at the British desire for “frictionless trade” outside of the EU customs union, stating that this is simply “not possible” in July 2017.

Contention rating: 4/5

Despite his years of experience, Barnier’s role as the EU’s Brexit boss has attracted controversy and has been badly received amongst elements of the UK press. Barnier’s history with Britain has not been easily forgotten; he was once dubbed “the most dangerous man in Europe” by the Telegraph when he was European Commissioner for internal markets, in charge of regulating financial services. His appointment as the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator was reported by the Financial Times as an act of revenge by Jean Claude Juncker and a sign that the EU was prepared to adopt a tough stance during the negotiations. Former Deputy Prime Minister and staunch Europhile Nick Clegg noted that his appointment would “set alarm bells ringing in the City of London”.

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