Michel Barnier disaster as his EU links a 'turn off' for French voters

George Eustice reacts to Barnier’s immigration suspension calls

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Michel Barnier surprised many this week when he called for non-EU immigration into the bloc to be frozen for five years. The EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator, who is thought to be considering a run at the French presidency, said the EU’s external frontier had become a “sieve”. He said: “I think we have to take the time for three or five years to suspend immigration. “The problems of immigration are not moderate. I know, as the politician that I am, to see the problems how they are and how French people experience them and to find solutions.”

Reports have indicated in recent months that Mr Barnier could seek to challenge French President Emmanuel Macron in 2022 as candidate for the centre-right Les Republicains party.

But some experts have expressed doubt over whether the former EU bureaucrat can mount a significant challenge.

Douglas Webber, emeritus professor of political science at the INSEAD business school, told Euronews that Mr Barnier may not have enough notoriety to make an impression.

He said: “Most people in opinion surveys asked ‘What do you think of Michel Barnier?’ simply don’t know who he is and can’t locate him on any kind of spectrum.”

Michel Barnier news: Barnier is reportedly considering an election run (Image: getty)

Michel Barnier news: Barnier could challenge in the French election (Image: getty)

Willy Beauvallet, a professor of Political Sciences at the Universite Lumiere Lyon 2, warned that “Europe is also a turn-off for a part of the electorate, on the right in particular.”

Mr Webber added that Mr Barnier would struggle in the first round of the French election but would be more suited to the second round should he get there.

He said: “I think he wouldn’t be a very good first-round candidate but he could be a very good second-round candidate.

“Barnier has a much more technocratic, centrist, moderate image. He is the kind of guy who would get the left-wing vote in the second round against Marine Le Pen better than any other people on the French right.

READ MORE: Brexit fishing row: France threatens ‘brutal retaliation’ against UK

Michel Barnier news: Barnier was Brexit negotiator (Image: getty)

“The French right used to be known as “la plus bête du monde” (the dumbest in the world), and this is the kind of phrase that comes to mind pretty often if you look at the situation of the party right now. They’re in complete chaos.

“I have no idea what kind of events could take place between now and April next year but they always can and the cards get to be reshuffled. Someone like Barnier could then emerge quite quickly as a plausible candidate.”

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Michel Barnier news: Macron could face a challenge from Barnier (Image: getty)

Michel Barnier news: Le Pen is close in the polls (Image: getty)

President Macron is still looking vulnerable to his main rival Ms Le Pen, polls suggest.

A recent poll published in the French newspaper Le Monde showed Ms Le Pen garnering 43 percent of support compared to Mr Macron’s 57 percent.

It was reported last month that Ms Le Pen is closing the gap on her rival, with an Ifop-Fiducial poll showing that her National Rally party would come first in six out of 10 scenarios in the first round if the ballots were cast last month.

She would then be beaten in the second round for the top two candidates, with 46 percent in a runoff against Mr Macron’s 54 percent, the poll showed.