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23rd Mar 2019

Farage claims Barnier 'does not get' Brexit

  • Barnier (l) met Farage (r), but this time in Commission's Berlaymont building (Photo: European Parliament)

MEP Nigel Farage, the former leader of UKIP and a leading 'out' figure in the referendum campaign, met with the chief EU Brexit negotiator on Monday (8 January), and claimed the EU does not understand British Brexit voters.

Michel Barnier's first official meeting with Farage in Brussels was a part of the EU negotiator's effort to meet all stakeholders who want to share their views on Brexit negotiations.

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After the meeting that lasted 30 minutes and was described by one EU source as "civil", Farage said the French official does not understand why 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU in 2016.

"Mr Barnier clearly did not understand why Brexit happened. I left with the impression that it has not been previously explained to him that the Brexit vote was primarily about controlling mass immigration and democratic self-determination," Farage tweeted after the meeting.

Farage urged the EU negotiator to "give on services and financial services", or have the UK operate under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Farage said a no-deal scenario is a possibility. "On the short term, a deal makes life easier, but 'am I frightened if we cannot get a deal'? Not the least," he told reporters.

While Farage has no direct influence on Brexit talks, meeting him was an effort by Barnier to show that his door is "always open".

Barnier has already met a large number of MEPs already since becoming the EU's chief Brexit negotiator in 2016.

Farage requested the meeting, saying Barnier did not know the position of the voters who opted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, but has met with so-called "Remoaners" - referring to people who voted 'Remain' and are now sceptical about any positive consequences of Brexit.

"I genuinely don't think Mr Barnier has heard the views of the 17.4 million people who stood up against the establishment," Farage said in an interview over the weekend.

Farage's bold claim that he represents Brexit voters was picked up by Stefaan De Rynck, Barnier's advisor, who told Farage in a tweet over the weekend to "tone it down". De Rynck pointed out that Barnier is meeting with UK government officials "all the time".

Barnier is also scheduled to meet other 'Brexiteers' this week.

On Wednesday (10 January) Barnier is set to meet with MEP Steven Woolfe, a former UKIP member, who made a bid for the party's leadership after Farage's departure. He later resigned from the party, after a brawl with a fellow MEP, saying the party is "ungovernable".

Barnier will also meet Digby Jones, a former trade minister, John Mills, chairman of Labour Leave, and John Longworth, the co-chairman of Leave means Leave.

The interest by Brexiteers in meeting Barnier was sparked after the French politician met with British pro-EU politicians, such as former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, former Conservative chancellor Ken Clarke, and Labour's Andrew Adonis last October.

The EU Commission remained tight-lipped over the Farage courtesy meeting. "They discussed the state of play of Article 50 negotiations," a spokesman for the EU executive said Monday.

Meanwhile officials are working on the legal text of the withdrawal agreement, agreed in December by EU and UK negotiators. The final text is expected to be ready by the end of January, or early February.

In the meantime, EU ministers are expected to sign off the EU's negotiating mandate for the talks on a transition period on 29 January.

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Michel Barnier: The UK's best friend in Brussels

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator is an atypical French politician, with a love for mountains and Europe. He has been steering Brexit talks with a steady hand, and a deal could catapult him to the higher echelons of EU politics.

Farage resigns: 'I want my life back'

The prominent vote Leave campaigner and anti-EU MEP already resigned Ukip top job three times before. This time it is final, he said.

Barnier rules out special trade deal for UK

The chief EU negotiator reiterated that during the transition period the UK would have to follow EU rules, including ones introduced after the UK leaves the bloc in 2019.

EU says Brexit transition to end in December 2020

There is no 'a la carte' transition period, the chief EU Brexit negotiator said, adding that the UK will have to comply with EU rules and policies without taking part in making decisions.

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