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

The Guardian Australia - - Politics / World News - Jen­nifer Rankin in Helsinki

The Euro­pean Union’s Brexit ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier has called on pro-EU forces to de­fend the frag­ile union from pop­ulist forces, be­cause he said there was now “a Farage in ev­ery coun­try”.

In a speech at the con­fer­ence of the pow­er­ful cen­tre-right Euro­pean Peo­ple’s party, 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 cen­treright pol­i­tics, also is­sued veiled crit­i­cism of the French pres­i­dent, Em­manuel Macron, who is seek­ing to cham­pion him­self as a de­fender of Europe’s lib­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral val­ues, against pop­ulists on the far-right and far-left.

“We must also re­spond to those who think that de­fend­ing Europe be­longs to one sin­gle party,” Barnier said, with­out men­tion­ing Macron by name. “More than ever be­fore, Europe needs the EPP’s found­ing vi­sion. We are pa­tri­ots and Euro­peans.”

Touch­ing on the threat of cli­mate change and the need to “rid our cities of smog and par­ti­cles”, Barnier re­vealed that his first grand­daugh­ter will be born in a few weeks. “In 2050 when our kids are 32, what will our en­vi­ron­ment look like, if we con­tinue to use the re­sources of three plan­ets per year,” he said.

He also called for Euro­pean ac­tion to in­vest in new space tech­nol­ogy and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, while re­veal­ing anx­i­ety about Europe los­ing out to China or big tech com­pa­nies. “The four GAFAs are big­ger than Ger­many [’s econ­omy],” he said us­ing the Frenchin­spired acro­nym to re­fer to Google, Ap­ple, Face­book, Ama­zon.

EPP del­e­gates are vot­ing to choose its can­di­date to be­come the next Euro­pean com­mis­sion pres­i­dent when JeanClaude Juncker stands down in 2019.

Pho­to­graph: Mauri Rati­lainen/EPA

Michel Barnier warned the Euro­pean Union was un­der threat ‘from those who want to de­mol­ish Europe with their fear, their pop­ulist de­ceit’.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.