Michel Barnier was Foreign Minister in France when the country held a referendum in May 2005 to decide whether it should ratify the proposed Constitution of the European Union. The vote would deal a tough blow for French President Jacque Chirac as 55 percent of voters rejected the proposal, plunging the EU’s constitution into serious doubt. Mr Barnier, following the disastrous outcome for the French government, said that France should stop trying to impose its views on its European Union partners and start to use persuasion instead. He said: “That means that in Brussels and Strasbourg, we try to convince rather than impose our views, to get people to go along with us rather than force them to do so.”
Referring to the result of the referendum, Mr Barnier also warned that the European Project could not be pursued without support.
He added: “We have the proof now that we can’t advance the European Project for our citizens without our citizens.”
Following the referendum defeat, Mr Chirac replaced his Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin with Dominique de Villepin.
But Mr Barnier was left furious at this decision, and voiced his anger at the “beheading” of his team in the Foreign Office in Paris.
He told his staff: “The rejection of the European constitution and the changes that followed resulted in the beheading of the ministerial team at the Quai d’Orsay.”
He made his comments before handing over to his successor, Philippe Douste-Blazy, the health minister in the outgoing government and a man with little experience in foreign affairs.
Mr Barnier, who earned a long round of applause from his staff, said that France was “no longer alone in making decisions”.
He added: “Others do not decide for us. We decide with the others.
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This contained many of the changes that were originally placed in the Constitutional Treaty but was formulated as amendments to the existing treaties.
Signed on December 13, 2007, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force on December 1, 2009.
Mr Barnier is now taking on the UK’s negotiating team in Brexit talks.
On the one hand, the UK, having voted to leave in 2016, is looking to secure economic autonomy – the freedom to set its own rules for businesses and also on fisheries.
And while Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to trade with the EU, the bloc’s chief negotiator has demanded regulatory alignment and continued access to British fishing grounds.