The European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was praised by EU leaders on November 25 for securing the bloc’s divorce agreement with Britain. The question now is what’s next for Barnier.
In September, he said he would not seek the nomination of the European Parliament’s biggest party, the centre-right EPP, to become the new head of the European Commission after Jean-Claude Juncker leaves next year.
But this could change, according to the Reuters news agency.
“His Brexit job has allowed him to build his profile and credentials. Back then, the negotiations were still running, and it was no time to jump ship. But we all know he is thinking about it and in the running,” one EU diplomat said on November 25.
Juncker will be replaced next November. His successor will be picked by the EU’s 27 national leaders.
Barnier, a pro-EU conservative, has travelled extensively across the bloc since the 2016 Brexit referendum, finding time to meet even the smaller political players, labour unions and industry lobbies.
According to Reuters, throughout the process, Barnier has made a point of showing particular respect for the European Parliament, which must also approve his Brexit deal for it to take effect before Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019.
What is more, he has shown some signs that he might by eyeing the job. Earlier this month, he travelled to Helsinki for the EPP congress despite not seeking the party’s recommendation.
In Brussels recently, Barnier gave a broad two-hour speech on issues from climate change and electric cars to combating populism and the challenge posed for Europe by China and the United States under President Donald Trump.
“Barnier has definitely not ruled himself out. He’s been very good shaking hands all around the EU. We’ll see what happens next,” another EU diplomat told Reuters on November 25.