Former Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier plans to run for French president as a right-wing candidate against Emmanuel Macron, he has announced.
The former European Commission official said he would introduce a moratorium on immigration and “restore the authority of the state” if elected.
Mr Barnier, who left the European Commission earlier in March after hitting its mandatory retirement age of 70, was the EU’s most prominent face of Brexit negotiations.
A former agriculture and foreign minister, Mr Barnier is one of four candidates to have formally declared their candidacy for the right-wing Les Republicains.
The party may hold a primary election to choose its candidate later this year if no obvious front runner emerges.
A former internal market Commissioner, Mr Barnier said after the conclusion of Brexit talks that he would “go back to France” and “take back my place” in the Gaullist Les Republicains party.
As it stands, polls have next year’s contest as a race between incumbent Mr Macron and far-right National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen – but Mr Barnier is hoping to break the duopoly with a strong showing in the first round, which is scheduled for 10 April 2022.
“In these grave times, I have taken the decision and have the determination to stand … and be the president of a France that is reconciled, to respect the French and have France respected,” he told TF1 television in a live interview.
Mr Barnier’s pitch for France’s top job may surprise some of his admirers back in Britain, who tend to have liberal sensibilities on account of his role in Brussels.
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Under Mr Barnier’s immigration moratorium proposal, first unveiled in May to prepare the ground for his presidential bid, France would ban immigration from outside the EU for up to five years.
Refugees and students would be among those exempted from the proposal. Mr Barnier also called for a discussion with other EU member states about making the bloc’s external border “more rigorous”.
And the French politician claimed there were “links” between immigration and “terrorist networks that infiltrate migrational flows”.