Presidential hopeful Michel Barnier gains ground with U-turn on EU and immigration

Michel Barnier, a former EU commissioner and chief Brexit negotiator for the bloc, is one of five contenders to become the presidential candidate for France’s conservative Les Républicains party, which will choose the nominee in a vote this week. Barnier, 70, has moved from outsider to frontrunner, the result of a remarkable ideological U-turn; once a champion of European integration and a ‘humanist’ approach to immigration, which he regarded as a positive phenomenon, he now pledges to suspend further immigration and to make France independent of the EU's legal institutions. As Ilyes Ramdani reports, Barnier’s sudden shift rightwards has proved a strategic success, notably among the nationalist current in his party.

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Up until a few months ago, few political observers would have predicted that Michel Barnier, the uncharismatic, 70-year-old former chief Brexit negotiator for the European Union, would become a serious contender to stand in next April’s French presidential elections.

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