‘A Farage in every country’: Barnier warns of existential threat to EU


The European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has called on pro-EU forces to defend the fragile union from populism, saying there is now “a Farage in every country”. In a speech at the conference of the powerful centre-right European People’s party (EPP), Barnier did not go into details of the deadlocked Brexit negotiations, but warned the EU project was “under threat”.

“We will have to fight against those who want to demolish Europe with their fear, their populist deceit,” he told more than 700 EPP delegates in Helsinki, before naming the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

In a wide-ranging speech that moved from European defence to electric vehicles, he mentioned Brexit only to promise to “fulfill my Brexit mission to the end” and make a brief opening joke that his speech would be short because “the clock is ticking”.

Barnier was speaking as Brexit talks were in stalemate over the issue of the Irish backstop – an insurance plan to avoid creating a hard border on the island of Ireland. A crucial cabinet meeting to agree the UK’s Brexit negotiating position was delayed from Thursday to the weekend or early next week amid a row over whether senior ministers should be given the government’s full legal advice on the backstop.

Barnier, a former French foreign minister with a long career in centre-right politics, also issued veiled criticism of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who is seeking to present himself as a defender of Europe’s liberal and multilateral values, against populists on the far right and far left.(theguardian)…[+]