Bye bye Barnier! Chief negotiator on way out says Brexiteer as he pinpoints huge EU error

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Lee Rotherham, who was Director of Special Projects at Vote Leave, also believes the bloc made a huge mistake in appointing Mr Barnier in the first place – suggesting they should have gone with Dutch European Commissioner Frans Timmermans instead. Mr Rotherham told Mr Johnson’s Internal Market Bill was essentially a self-defence mechanism against Brussels overreach.

He said: “We cannot afford to take any chances with the EU. The EU has form.

“The EU is used to countries rolling over.”

Assessing the bloc’s next move, Mr Rotherham said: “My take is someone needs to step in and remove Barnier.

The biggest error the EU made was putting Barnier in charge and not Timmermans

Lee Rotherham

“The biggest mistake of the Commission was not appointing Frans Timmermans, the Dutch former vice-president of the Commission.

“He is actually very clued up. He is not a eurosceptic but he understands euroscepticism.

“The biggest error the EU made was putting Barnier in charge and not Timmermans.

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“It would have been much better – everyone would have happy.

“They’ve still got time to redeem it by chucking out Barnier.”

To underline why he believed Mr Barnier had been fundamentally ill-suited to the role of Brexit negotiator, Mr Rotherham pointed a book version of Brexit: Behind Closed Doors, a fly-on-the-wall documentary screened last year largely focused on Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit representative.

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Referring to an incident not covered in the film, Mr Rotherham said: “Barnier says his ambition was throughout that the EU and the UK would have the most close customs and regulatory union as possible.

“And he was pushing that because he also thought it also was in the UK’s best interests.

“So that was his ambition from the start.

“So Barnier has painted not just himself, but everybody into a corner and at some point they will have to step in.”

Mr Rotherham believes it was entirely possible such an intervention would come in the form of bilateral negotiations, explaining: “There has already been talk of Merkel and Boris having a head-to-head.

“And it says everything about Barnier and nothing about Frost if that happens – although that’s speculation.

“But that’s how you do it – you fix the problem, and Barnier has always been the problem.”

Mr Rotherham said Brussels’ insistence on working out the terms of the withdrawal agreement first before moving on to discussions about the EU’s future trading relationship with the UK – known as the sequencing issue – had been critical – and was indicative of the “bad faith” with which the bloc had undertaken negotiations.

He added: “You had to based the backstop around the treaty – you couldn’t do it the other way round.

“So by jamming it in that way, we would end up with a complete knot, which is exactly where we are.

“It was an impossible conundrum – it was the original sin of the withdrawal agreement and it was down to Barnier, it was his fault.”

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