Barnier set for embarrassing defeat after announcing challenge to Emmanuel Macron

Brexit: Barnier says things will be 'more difficult' for UK

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Mr Barnier made his pitch to the French public by declaring himself as a candidate in the ballot. He sought to reassure voters that his experience and down-to-earth personality will help with healing French wounds in what has been a turbulent era for the country. Mr Barnier said: “In these grave times, I have taken the decision and have the determination to stand … and be the president of a France that is reconciled, to respect the French and have France respected.”

Despite being a well-known figure in Brussels and Britain because of his exploits during the Brexit negotiations, Mr Barnier is still a little-known character in his homeland.

He has previously held ministerial office but a tilt at the top job will be his first foray into the forefront of domestic politics.

The former Brussels diplomat would have to upset the odds to become the centre-right candidate, with recent polling reflecting the tough challenge he faces. 

According to the latest polling featuring Mr Barnier, the Frenchman would only secure eight percent of the vote.

This compares to a separate poll published by Challenges, a financial weekly, that said Xavier Bertrand, the favourite to become the centre-right candidate in the presidential race, would win 16 percent of the vote.

This puts him behind both French President Mr Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who are both on 24 percent.

Valerie Pecresse, who heads up the Paris region council, is another frontrunner for the centre-right candidacy.

She would only secure 13 percent, according to the latest polling.

The poll said Mr Macron would defeat Ms Le Pen by 55 percent to 45 percent in the final run-off.

Mr Barnier was not included in the poll published by Challenger.

Mr Barnier hopes to position himself as a hardliner on immigration, which would likely play well among France’s traditional conservative voter base.

He suggested that he would implement a five-year ban on immigration and reform the EU to curb deregulation and bureaucracy if elected.

MUST READ: Fury as France seeks to ‘expel’ migrants to UK

“The President must lead, bring people, set a path towards the horizon but he cannot do everything on his own,” Mr Barnier said.

In a further attack on Mr Macron, he said the next French needed “strength, vision but also humility”.

He insisted France needed to “limit and have control over immigration”.

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Michel Barnier discusses the state of politics in Europe

Even with Mr Barnier’s announcement that he wants to run against Mr Macron, there is no certainty that he will clinch the candidacy for the Republicans, the man centre-right opposition party.

The movement has yet to decide how it will go about choosing a candidate.

It has been suggested Mr Bertrand, who has officially left the party, would refuse to take part in any primary election to find a candidate.

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