Is ANYONE surprised? Barnier U-turn shows just how shamelessly EU treated UK during Brexit

Michel Barnier says immigration should have '3 year suspension'

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But Tom Harris said his “risky” strategy may end up strengthening Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally party prior to next year’s French Presidential elections – as even opening up the almost-unthinkable prospect of France itself quitting the bloc. Tom Harris, a committed Brexiteer who served as MP for Glasgow South, previously Glasgow Cathcart, from 2001 to 2015, was reacting after Mr Barnier called for the suspension of all non-EU immigration into France – something Mr Harris suggested contrasted with the Frenchman’s rhetoric in the wake of the result of the 2016 referendum.

Former shadow environment minister Mr Harris said: “Will Barnier now become a non-person, disowned by those who still yearn for Britain’s triumphant return to the EU’s embrace? Even they will have their doubts.

“Not only can we no longer be sure if Barnier was actually negotiating in good faith with the UK, if he gets his way and actually wins the presidency, he could open the way to France – France! – leaving the bloc.”

Mr Harris said the radical proposal, as well as Mr Barnier’s suggestion that France re-examines the Schengen ‘passport-free’ travel zone in mainland Europe, was surprising coming from the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator.

Mr Harris said the radical proposal, as well as Mr Barnier’s suggestion that France re-examines the Schengen ‘passport-free’ travel zone in mainland Europe, was surprising coming from the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator.

He added: “Those talks, you will recall, were defined by the cultural divide between Remainers, with their cosmopolitan, progressive, inclusive approach to life, and Leavers, with their racist prejudices, dodgy regional accents, their lack of university degrees, their love of whippet racing and, of course, their yearning for the days of Empire.”

Referring to Mr Barnier’s widely-rumoured challenge to French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr Harris, writing in the Telegraph, argued: “Tearful Remainers were yesterday removing posters of Barnier from their bedroom walls after the prospective candidate for his country’s presidency took a leaf out of Marie Le Pen’s book by hopping on the anti-immigrant bandwagon.

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“Or maybe the posters stayed where they were: maybe intolerance is fine provided it’s expressed by the ‘right’ kind of people and not riff-raff; you know, the kind of working class bigots who embarrass prime ministers during general election campaigns.

“Perhaps the Conservative Party can sell Mr Barnier their old poster idea from 2005: ‘It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration’.”

In outlining his immigration proposals, Mr Barnier was essentially acting in his own best interests, Mr Harris suggested.

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He explained: “Barnier said one thing from 2016 to 2019 in order to put pressure on a recalcitrant Britain because it suited his political agenda to do so.

“And now that it suits him for political purposes to perform a volte-face (or whatever it’s called in France) he is doing and saying whatever it takes to win the support of his country’s main centre-right party and become president.”

However, he warned: “It is such a dangerous, as well as cynical, move. Barnier hopes to outflank Marine Le Pen, currently Macron’s main rival for the Elysee, who has made much progress with her war on immigration.

“But by parking his tank on her lawn, as it were, Barnier is merely confirming that she has a point.

“In a single statement he has increased Le Pen’s credibility and, perhaps, her electability.

Despite the EU’s posturing, Britain’s track record on the issue was actually much better, Mr Harris insisted.

He said: “Britain has made much more of a success than France of multiculturalism and integration.

“Problems exist but extremists like Le Pen have never made much progress in mainstream politics, and debates about immigration – like the one we were almost allowed to have in 2016 – usually happen in a less febrile atmosphere.

“Even so, Remainers do love to dismiss all such concerns as xenophobia or worse. Legitimate fears over jobs, wages, housing and local services are dismissed: why can’t these people stop moaning and go relax in their Tuscan fixer-upper like everyone else?

Had Mr Barnier spoken his mind a few years earlier, the European Commission might have made more effort to address the concerns cited by the UK with respect to the single market and freedom of movement rather than brushing them aside, Mr Harris suggested.

However, he concluded: “Those problems are no longer ours to fix. The UK has a vested interest in the success of the European Project.

“We just never expected its next threat to come from this direction.”

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