Michel Barnier has warned that France could follow the UK out of the EU, as polls show growing support for Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen.
He said there was “social unrest and anger” over immigration and the failure of Europe to defend its borders and the “bureaucracy and complexity” of the EU.
“We could learn lessons from Brexit for ourselves. It is now too late for the UK but not for us, ”said the former EU chief negotiator.
“We can find, not only in the UK, but here in France, in the northern regions […] citizens who want to leave the EU, ”said Barnier, who returned to domestic politics.
He added: “It is our responsibility to understand why the British left […] It is important for us to listen to the anger expressed in the UK and to implement the kind of changes needed to better understand and reassure the remaining European citizens.
The latest FIFG poll shows Ms Le Pen, who heads the National Rally party, would beat pro-EU Emmanuel Macron by two percentage points in the first round of presidential elections next year.
Mr Macron is expected to win in the second round by 54% to 46%, but that’s more restricted than the 66.1% to 34.6% loss he suffered four years ago.
Ms Le Pen called Frexit in this election, but has since stopped campaigning for France to leave the bloc. Instead, she wants to create a “Europe of nations”.
Mr Barnier hopes to rebuild support for the center-right Republican Party ahead of the election.
He was speaking at a Brexit event in northern France, where fishermen complain they have yet to get a UK fishing license since Brexit.
Clément Beaune, French Minister for Europe, said the EU was accused “of being weak and slow”.
He said the bloc should take advantage of its robust approach to Brexit negotiations.
“In 2016, people thought it was the beginning of the end for Europe, but we were able to show that we can be agile, that we can react, that we can be consistent in defending our interests in a way firm to defend Europe’s greatest assets – the single market and our political unity. “
He added: “These are lessons we must all keep in mind as Europe faces more and more difficulties.”
The European Commission warned Britain that any further unilateral action on the Northern Ireland protocol was unacceptable at a meeting on Thursday evening.
Maros Sefcovic, vice-chairman of the committee, told Lord Frost that “solutions can only be found by joint actions and by joint bodies”.
Britain insists its unilateral actions to extend grace periods on food and parcels are lawful and done in good faith.
The meeting on the implementation of the new post-Brexit customs arrangements in Northern Ireland was described as “constructive” by both sides.