Earlier this week, the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator failed to beat his Les Republicains (LR) counterparts in the primary. He finished third with 23.93 percent, behind winner Eric Ciotti (25.59 percent) and Valérie Pécresse (25 percent). During his election campaign, Mr Barnier sent shockwaves throughout the EU after he proposed a referendum on immigration and the supremacy of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on French law.
He attacked France’s “big decline” and claimed the leadership style employed by current President Emmanuel Macron was too arrogant and single-minded to repair the divides.
Mr Barnier proposed a moratorium on immigration in an attempt to solve the migrant crisis sweeping through France and Europe as a whole.
The Frenchman also wanted soldiers to patrol some communities where police are seen to have lost control and threw his support behind a possible referendum on restoring military service.
Fierce Brexit critic Mr Barnier also argued that in years to come, Germany would be the only European country that could sit at the international political table unless France regains its political independence.
But his elimination from the French presidential race to challenge Mr Macron has further intensified calls for France to press ahead with a campaign to leave the EU, while exposing key weaknesses in the bloc.
History professor Kevin Bossuet tweeted: “Michel Barnier will be able to go back to Brussels to say the opposite of what he said, which is also the opposite of what he has always said.”
French MEP Thierry Mariani, a former member of LR who has been an Independent since 2019, tweeted in reply: “In these LR primary elections, Barnier has shown how one can defend for two months the opposite of what one has defended and said for years.
“What is certain is that in the European institutions he has now lost all credibility.”
He insisted “I want my country to be around that table” and doesn’t want France to be a “spectator of decisions made by others”.
Mr Barnier said: “There is a table around which the world will be organised in the next 30 years and I talk about that because it concerns our children and our grandchildren.
“Around this table, we find the Americans, who have been there for a long time; the Chinese, soon the first power of the world; India; Russia; Brazil.
“We will be eliminated from this table. In 30 or 40 years only Germany will be there.
“Do we want to be at the table or not? I am a patriot, I am a Gaullist, I am European, because I want my country to be around that table.
“I don’t want France to be a spectator of decisions made by others. I did not join politics so that France would be a subcontractor of the Chinese and under the influence of the Americans.
“I have an ambition for my country. I want France to be respected.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.