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Dr Joseph Downing, a Fellow in Nationalism at the London School of Economics, was speaking as tensions over Brexit between London and Brussels continued to mount amid plans to introduce the Internal Market Bill, which can effectively override the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement. This is turn has focused attention on the role played by Mr Barnier, who exchanged barbed tweets with UK counterpart Lord David Frost yesterday.
Asked whether he believed Mr Barnier’s position was vulnerable, Dr Downing told Express.co.uk: “Completely. This is one of the most important things.
“At the end of the day, in international relations there is this theory of realism.
“This is all about international change being affected by states according to their power.
“The truth is, within the EU system, you may have a massive bureaucracy, you may have a President, you may have negotiators, you may have a budget, you may even have as you have now the ability to borrow money on deficit.
“But at the end of the day, the nation-states are still more powerful.”
Dr Downing added: “It if is in the interests of Boris, France and Germany and the other richer member states to have a deal, or support a negotiator in a more sensible way, they would definitely go for that.
“What power does Michel Barnier actually have? He is not the President of a country that can suffer economically.
“Even if they don’t talk over his head in public, in private they would say it a lot better.
“France cannot afford to see France’s interests damaged in all this and this is a sense that is shared widely across all member states I think.
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“The EU sets these kinds of operational, bureaucratic red lines.
“For eurocrats that is fine, those are their priorities.
“But I don’t think those are always the priorities of the member states who are making the calculation about whether they are going to lose money or lose jobs.”
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has also doubtless focused the minds of leaders of member states on securing a deal, Dr Downing pointed out.
He added: “There is a major on both sides to prevent more economic damage.
“The interesting thing about the EU and negotiations is that they almost construct it as if it is about negotiation.
“Whereas we know negotiation is mean, it’s about not blinking, it’s about bluffing.
“They want to create this public perception that they don’t have conflicts of interests between member states, they all have the same goals but we know behind the scenes that is not how any group works.”
Officially at least, France remains completely supportive of Mr Barnier.
French European affairs minister Clement Beaune has been vociferous in his denial of any suggestion Mr Barnier could be in any way sidelined.
Last week he tweeted: “Keep calm and support Michel Barnier” and followed his post up with another in response to an article in the Daily Telegraph.
He said: “No doubt that British humour the Telegraph is accustomed to: Obviously, full support to Michel Barnier and his mandate! #fakenews.”
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