Mr Barnier sparked controversy during his visit to London this week as he taunted the Prime Minister over the dispute over a so-called level playing field. It came as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator took a stroll in Regent’s Park, West London. Posting a snap of his outing alongside a football pitch to Twitter, he wrote: “Short break from intense EU-UK negotiations in London,” he commented, adding: “Went looking for level playing fields…”
Level playing fields, future EU access to UK fishing waters, and workers’ rights have all been thorns in the side of any breakthrough agreement between Westminster and Brussels.
The current Brexit standoff has been widely blamed in Brussels circles on infighting in Downing Street with the news of Lee Cain’s departure, and now Dominic Cummings’ confirmation that he will leave by Christmas.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the largest party in the European Parliament and an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel lamented the “chaotic situation” unfolding in Westminster.
As Mr Barnier cracked his joke, the UK similarly accused the EU of failing to make progress in trade talks.
Brexit news: Michel Barnier has taken aim at the City of London several times over the years (Image: GETTY)
Michel Barnier: The EU’s chief negotiator caused a storm after his Twitter post (Image: Twitter/@michelbarnier)
It isn’t the first time Mr Barnier has stoked anger around the question of the EU’s hand in the UK.
The Frenchman for years appears to have had his sights on the City of London ‒ one of the world’s most successful and bustling financial hubs.
While holding the post of EU commissioner for internal markets and services between 2010 and 2014, a slew of his comments infuriated ministers and business people.
It came as he called for more financial regulation; a move that many claimed was Mr Barnier’s way of trying to dilute London’s status of being Europe’s financial centre.