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In his meetings with the EU’s leaders, Barnier (centre) fought to preserve a united front. Photo: © Ye Pingfan/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

Michel Barnier’s diaries show how he overachieved on Brexit

A blow-by-blow account by the former chief negotiator contains an important lesson: unbending rigour is not always the asset you might think

By Julian King   July 2021

Like Homer Simpson shuffling surreptitiously backwards into a hedge, some would have us believe that Brexit is gradually fading into the background. Not, it’s true, for the businesses dealing with the fallout, or for the people of Northern Ireland. But Covid has shifted the dial politically. Governments are currently defined by their response to the pandemic here, across the EU and elsewhere.

This is not, perhaps, the most promising backdrop to the launch of the diaries from the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, covering the four long years that he spent grinding away at the problem. But La grande illusion: Journal secret du Brexit (2016-2020) was published by Gallimard in French in May, with an English translation due in the autumn. So who and what is this book for?

Historians, I guess, in the years to come. They will find the key steps of the process set…

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