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Michel Barnier, the one who “ticks all the boxes” but remains little known in France

Her voice, soft and monotonous, is muffled by the mask. The owner of the Unicorn may listen, he does not hear Michel Barnier come to visit his brewery, Friday, October 22, in Saverne (Bas-Rhin), near Strasbourg. Slender figure, immaculate suit and silvery hair, the nomination contestant of the Republicans party listens, diligently, this “Brewer from father to son” talk to him about starch and grains. When leaving, he meets two employees. “I visited your company, the Savoyard hails them, nice and professional!

– You tasted our beers, then? they chuckle.

– Oh, I mustn’t drink too much… you know! “, Barnier smiles.

The employees give him a forbidden look. The guest understands that he must introduce himself: “Michel Barnier, candidate for the presidency of the Republic. “ His interlocutors widen their eyes, then laugh: ” Is that so ? Isn’t that Zemmour, the candidate? “

Little known in France, having never enjoyed a great aura within his political family, the former Brexit negotiator has a long way to go before the LR congress which will appoint his candidate on December 4. He set up his HQ just behind the Elysee Palace, and entrusted the direction of his campaign to the former adviser of Jacques Chirac, Marie-Claire Carrère-Gée, assisted by a nucleus of parliamentarians, including Brigitte Kuster, Arnaud Danjean, Patrick Hetzel , François Cornut-Gentille, Olivier Marleix or the party treasurer, Daniel Fasquelle. The mayor of Meaux, Jean-François Copé, who is due to receive him on Monday, could announce his support, too.

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Michel Barnier wants to believe that his long experience in the mysteries of power constitutes a master asset: elected youngest general councilor in France at 22, in 1973; youngest of the deputies; youngest president of the Savoie departmental council; four times minister (environment, in 1993; European affairs, in 1995; foreign affairs in 2004; agriculture, in 2007); twice European Commissioner; and Brexit negotiator. Without forgetting his first feat of arms, which he never ceases to refer to thirty years later, the organization of the Albertville Olympic Games in 1992. “He ticks all the boxes, summarizes the deputy LR François Cornut-Gentille. People are looking for a presidential figure, he can play him. “

Approached for Matignon

The Brexit agreement weighed heavily on his decision to run for president in France, although he left fifteen years in favor of the Brussels technostructure. The attendance of heads of state and government of the EU, rubbed shoulders with four years in the enclosure of the European Council, would have removed any complex, according to his relatives. Barnier was even applauded – a rarity – by the Vint-Sept, who praised his art of consensus, his patience and his tenacity. In the corridors of the austere Berlaymont, even the very provocative Hungarian President Viktor Orban appreciates it: “The only French of this level who says hello to us. “” He is a good negotiator, inclusive, he was very close to us, confirms the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune. He gained a certain stature and did not want to hang up his crampons. “

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