‘Barnier mania’ Ex-EU Brexit negotiator labelled ‘French Joe Biden’ in presidency bid

Macron looking for ‘handy enemy’ says commentator

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Reports suggest President Macron is right to be worried about Mr Barnier’s position in the race for the top seat. After his campaign got off to a slow start in the summer, the EU’s former Brexit negotiator is now believed to be well-placed to become the candidate for the centre-right Les Republicains (LR) party.

A number of senior LR figures have thrown their weight behind Mr Barnier in recent days, including former interior minister Brice Hortefeux, who, according to The Times, gushed: “You can be our Joe Biden.”

Mr Barnier, 70, was keen to point out that he is eight years younger than the US President.

“It’s incredible to be coming across as a new man at my age,” he said.

Mr Barnier’s political adviser, Daniel Fasquelle, also the mayor of Le Touquet, believes things are looking up for the presidential hopeful amid “Barnier mania” taking over.

“There is a snowball effect,” Mr Fasquelle said.

A survey for Le Monde newspaper was less hopeful, suggesting that Mr Barnier will receive just eight to nine percent of first-round votes in the election. And that’s just if he is nominated as LR’s candidate.

President Macron, on the other hand, is predicted to obtain 24 to 27 percent.

Other challengers to the President are also on course to perform better than Mr Barnier in the first round.

Political journalist Éric Zemmour, who has been described as the French Donald Trump, hasn’t yet formally announced his bid but is credited with receiving 15 percent of the votes.

Marine Le Pen of the National Rally is tipped to receive 17 percent of the votes – more than double Mr Barnier’s predicted take.

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But there is hope for Mr Barnier yet.

LR recently decided to pick its presidential candidate in an internal party convention rather than in a primary open to all French voters.

This is likely to help Mr Barnier receive selection thanks to his loyalty to the party.

One LR MP, François Cornut-Gentille, is quoted in Politico as saying: “It appears the rank and file like Barnier because he didn’t leave when our political family was divided.”

Mr Barnier has, however, been less loyal to the EU, arguing recently that the bloc should hand some powers back to France.

This too could act in his favour, helping to differentiate him from the overtly pro-EU President Macron.

In an interview for The Guardian, Mr Barnier clarified that a “recalibration between the national and the European levels is what I want to do in France”.

This position set him apart from a number of his political counterparts.

The first of four televised debates for the presidential election will take place on November 8.

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