Brexit showdown: Insider lifts lid on Barnier’s battle with ‘Monster of Brussels’ Selmayr
Jean-Claude Junker: Martin Selmayr will NOT step down
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And Tory MP David Jones has also suggested Mr Selmayr’s behaviour during Brexit negotiations was “less than helpful”. Mr Barnier singled out Mr Selmayr, who as the Commission’s secretary-general was the most powerful civil servant in the European Union, in his new book La Grande Illusion, in which he describes his time as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
It was known that Selmayr was a bit of a loose cannon during Brexit talks
In his book, Mr Barnier suggests Mr Selmayr had attempted to establish parallel lines of communication with the UK’s then-prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit negotiator Oliver Robbins in 2018.
He additionally claims Mr Selmayr, who is now the Commission’s Permanent Representative to Austria, flatly refused to discuss the matter with him and denied any contact with UK officials.
Pieter Cleppe, a Brussels-based a Brussels-based research fellow with the think tank Property Rights Alliance, who was previously head of the Brussels Office at Open Europe, told Express.co.uk: “It was known that Selmayr was a bit of a loose cannon during Brexit talks, at some point even trying to take over the Brexit negotiations.
“And it is therefore revealing to see Michel Barnier confirming this in his memoirs.”
Mr Cleppe added: “Barnier wasn’t alone. Some EU member states were equally uncomfortable about his influence, as Selmayr had a reputation for behaving like a bull in a China shop.
“UK officials have accused him of wanting to ‘punish’ the UK for Brexit, while Selmayr oddly believed Brexit would re-energise the EU project, as it would somehow prove to EU citizens how valuable the EU is.
“So far, this effect hasn’t been visible.”
Mr Jones, the MP for Clywd West and the vice-chairman of the European Research Group – likewise regards Mr Selmayr as having been a disruptive influence, describing the German as a “below-the-radar merchant”.
He told Express.co.uk: “Selmayr was less than helpful.
“It was reportedly Selmayr who said that losing Northern Ireland was the price the UK would pay for Brexit.
“I challenged Barnier personally on that, and said that the EU was trying to annex Northern Ireland. He hotly denied it. Selmayr apparently denied saying it, too.
“Barnier was far more emollient.”
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“It is always interesting to try to understand one’s opponent’s point of view. Barnier is a highly intelligent, cultured individual and every inch a Frenchman, yet he is seemingly happy to see his country subsumed into the bureaucratic, supranational monstrosity that is the European Union.
“It would be fascinating to learn why that is the case.”
In his book Mr Barnier writes of Mr Selmayr: “I know he directly sees Olly Robbins and speaks to him.
“Such discussions, by themselves, don’t shock me, except when it is about expressing directly to the British side ideas that are his, and of which we haven’t spoken.”
Mr Barnier, widely tipped to be planning a challenge to French President Emmanuel Macron next year, added: “From the beginning, the British side play it both ways, and are seeking to open with Martin Selmayr a second line of negotiation.
“And I see that he has a hard time resisting.”
Mr Barnier also claimed Mr Selmayr had rebuffed his attempts to discuss the situation.
He explained: “With his usual stamina, he tells me he has no time to take care of Brexit, that he has other things to do, including to save the trade agreement with the US and that he doesn’t speak to the British side.”
Mr Selmayr’s appointment to the powerful role in 2018 – which gave him responsibility for the Commission’s 33,000 paid staff – irritated many who believe he was fast-tracked into his post without any effort to identify alternative candidates.
The patronage of former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, for whom he had previously worked as chief of staff, was seen as instrumental in securing him the post.
The process by which he was given the job was criticised by European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly – but her conclusions were subsequently dismissed by the Commission.
The European Commission has declined to comment.
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