Barnier vs Macron: EU’s former Brexit frontman tipped to challenge French leader in 2022

Macron may 'struggle' with left-leaning voters says expert

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However, Dr Louis Perron still believes the contest is likely to boil down to a repeat of the 2017 face-off between Mr Macron and Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally party. Mr Barnier, who was the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, has not confirmed his plan to throw his hat into the ring for 2022.

However, speaking as the UK quit the bloc last year, he set tongues wagging by announcing he was “available and mobilised”.

He subsequently announced he was launching a new political faction named Patriot and European, with widespread rumours that he is strongly considering a run.

Dr Perron, a political consultant and scientist based in Switzerland, told “He is indeed said to have ambitions.

“He is apparently testing the waters.

“From a French perspective, he is definitely an accomplished leader at the European level.

“But he has been away from domestic politics for some time.”

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Nevertheless, Dr Perron suggested the 43-year-old former financier remained very much in the driving seat, with Mrs Le Pen his most probably opponent in the run-off election, when the contest is boiled down to two candidates.

He added: “One year before the election, based on the surveys and in view of the dynamics within the different political camps, that is indeed the most likely scenario.

“In such a situation, Macron is definitely the front runner.

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“But then again, a year has become a lifetime in politics.

“Who would have thought Macron would win a year before the last election.”

Assessing the impact of the pandemic on Mr Macron’s chance next year, Dr Perron said: “All political leaders deal with the same virus, yet some gain in the surveys while others get hurt pretty badly.

“Macron was among the leaders who first benefited in the surveys when the French saw his crisis management.

“By now, the French, as all others, get tired and impatient. Again, a prediction is impossible to make.

“It will all depend on how the French see things a year from now.

“Maybe they will experience a recovery and boom, or a painful recession.”

Former Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell has suggested Mr Macron will seek to assume the role of de facto “leader of Europe” once Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel steps down next year.

However, Mr Perron said: “I don’t think that he sees himself as the leader of Europe.

“His convictions are strongly pro-European, however.

“Whoever is the next German chancellor, Macron will try to work with to revive the European Union.”

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