Remainers hoping to ferry the UK back into the European Union have been warned the bloc is “not the same” as it was pre-Brexit.
The European landscape has changed in the nearly three years since the country, eager to start its regulatory bonfire, finally cut ties with the mainland political framework after the shock 2016 vote.
Remain voters have hoped the country will eventually return, but but the bloc has changed in the years since the vote, according to one top diplomat who helped negotiate the final outcome.
Michel Barnier, the negotiator turned French politician and presidential hopeful, has said the EU is “no longer” the bloc the UK left in January 2020.
While he has left the EU’s Commission’s Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, Mr Barnier, now opposing populists like Marine Le Pen in his home country, remains a keen advocate for the bloc.
He has kept his ear to the ground and told the Financial Times the bloc has started to learn some lessons from the Brexit process.
He said: “The EU today is no longer the EU that the UK left. We have begun to draw the lessons of Brexit.”
Mr Barnier praised lawmakers’ bid to fight populism, hiring 10,000 border guards, and a joint borrowing scheme members have used to build a Covid recovery fund.
Surprisingly, while championing the centre-right platform in 2022, he also criticised the EU and advocated for similar policies to those of his Brexit-voting UK counterparts.
He declared immigration “out of control”, suggested France should suspend all non-EU immigration for three to five years, and criticised the European Court of Justice.
The ECJ, he said, is responsible for policies that reduce states’ freedom to act in the name of national security and expand migrants’ rights to bring family members.
He has suggested rewriting “something in the [EU] treaties” or, like Rishi Sunak, reshaping his country’s relationship with the European Convention of Human Rights.
Despite Mr Barnier’s criticism, some Remainers still are desperate to rejoin the bloc.
Recent polling by Omnisis, in partnership with WeThink, based on fieldwork conducted between November 16 and 17 this year, found that 58 per cent of people would rejoin, while 42 per cent would stay clear of the EU.