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Barnier’s plan all along? Brexit negotiator set to lead EU to settle Merkel-Macron row

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Barnier’s plan all along? Brexit negotiator set to lead EU to settle Merkel-Macron rowBREXIT negotiator Michel Barnier is set to become the frontrunner in the race to replace Jean-Claude Juncker, Brussels sources today revealed.The veteran eurocrat is set to become part of a “Franco-German deal” bringing an end to Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron’s Brussels power struggle. EU diplomats and officials have claimed Mr Barnier has the credibility to become the European Commission president at a tricky time in the bloc’s history. German MEP Manfred Weber, the former frontrunner, was largely discarded by EU capitals for lacking the necessary experience to hold the bloc’s most senior role.Mr Barnier last night held talks with Mr Macron’s top Brussels aide in the Belgian capital ahead of what is expected to be an imminent announcement, according to EU sources.The French President is ready to back an alternative European People’s Party candidate for the top job after refusing to support Mr Weber. In a bid to break the deadlock, senior German politicians have spent the week canvassing officials at the Elysee Palace in Paris.An EU diplomat said: “The prime minister of the Saarland region, on the border with France, has been sent to Paris regularly over the past week to sound the Elysee on support for Barnier.”Ms Merkel and Joseph Daul, the EPP’s president, are expected to break the news to Mr Weber when they meet for dinner in Berlin.Brussels sources claim the deal for Mr Barnier could finalised on the fringes of the G20 summit in Japan, where a number of senior EU leaders will be in attendance.One said: “It seems after the last European Council and on the eve of the G20, the time has come to finally put forward the name of Michel Barnier for Commission president.”EU heads of government will then meet in Brussels on Sunday for an emergency gathering organised by European Council chief Donald Tusk.Mr Tusk has warned leaders that they face the prospect of all-night talks that continue into a breakfast session if they can’t build a majority behind a candidate.Brussels insiders have revealed that last week’s summit ended in a deadlock because leaders didn’t categorically kill off Mr Weber’s chances for the presidency and Ms Merkel refused to leave the Belgian capital “with his blood on her hands”.But Mr Barnier is expected to secure wider support after what is considered an “impressive” spell as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, according to sources.One EU source said: “It’s clear that the EPP is going to stake its claim for the Commission.“Manfred Weber’s credentials would have been fine a decade ago but the world has changed.“With Brexit and the transatlantic tensions, the EU needs an old hand to deal with Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Chinese President Xi Jinping.“That’s why the Council has been increasingly sounded out about Barnier.”Mr Barnier’s coronation as Commission president would come as part of a “package deal” that would hand the Council presidency to a liberal or socialist politician.The European Parliament presidency will also be announced next week as the institution’s first session of its new mandate in Strasbourg.

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Barnier’s plan all along? Brexit negotiator set to lead EU to settle Merkel-Macron row BREXIT negotiator Michel Barnier is set to become the frontrunner in the race to replace Jean-Claude Juncker Brussels sources today revealed to Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron’s Brussels power struggle German MEP Manfred Weber Ms Merkel and Joseph Daul the EPP’s president are expected to break the news to Mr Weber With Brexit and the transatlantic tensions
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