Michel Barnier has revealed his biggest regrets over the Brexit vote in a revealing interview.
The former European Commission negotiator, who helped reshape the UK’s relationship with the EU from 2019 to 2021, was “astonished” by aspects of the Conservative government’s tactics.
He painstakingly negotiated the details of the separation agreement and resolutely told the Financial Times that there was “no room for maneuver” regarding the current framework.
But there is still room, he added, for “future Prime Minister”, Sir Keir Starmer, “to improve the functioning of the agreement”.
He focused on one particular aspect of the deal that he said could use some improvement; the Erasmus UK-EU exchange programme.
Erasmus became a controversial aspect of the Brexit deal in 2020 when it was revealed that the government at the time planned to leave the program and replace it with the local Turing Scheme.
This unexpected decision, which came after Boris Johnson assured MPs that there was “no threat to the Erasmus programme”, means that British students have lost access to European institutions and that European students have lost access to European institutions. access to the United Kingdom.
Mr Barnier was among those who regretted the decision, described as “real sadness”, and he suggested the project was one of the few the UK could possibly join under Sir Keir.
He told the Financial Times: “The door is open, especially for Erasmus. »
Sir Keir, who is expected to become the UK’s next prime minister, has said he would like to rethink EU-UK relations after a turbulent few years.
Mr Barnier once praised the Labor leader, writing in his book My Secret Brexit Diary that he was impressed by “his ability to grasp in detail the issues at stake in the Brexit negotiations” and that he believed he “would one day become British Prime Minister”.
But he threw cold water on plans by David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, to comb through the UK-EU trade deal ‘page by page’ and to renegotiate it.
He told the party “good luck,” while agreeing to other aspects of the plan that seemed “pragmatic and possible.”
Sir Keir said there was “no reason” to return to the EU, the customs union or the single market, but he has a softer stance on the issue than the Conservatives.
He has previously said he does not “want to deviate” from EU rules and that, while remaining outside European institutions, “the more we share a future together”.