Where are the Brexit grandees now? Tusk, Barnier and Juncker life after Brexit

Brexit: Kuenssberg says people ‘missing Juncker’

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Three powerhouses of the EU: Donald Tusk, former President of the European Council, Michel Barnier, former chief Brexit negotiator, and Jean-Claude Juncker, former President of the European Commission. While the men might no longer be leading the bloc and navigating Brexit, they are far from retired. Here’s where they are now.

Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk provided some of the most explosive headlines of the Brexit negotiation era.

Remember: “There’s a special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit”?

Well, Mr Tusk might no longer have a seat at the top table in the European Council, but he’s not done making political waves.

Mr Tusk, 64, once Poland’s Prime Minister, has returned to Polish politics to be elected head of the strongest party in the country’s fragmented opposition.

He said he was returning to the political fray to help fight the “evil” of the current right-wing government.

Mr Tusk co-founded Civic Platform, a centre-liberal party, in 2001.

The party ruled Poland for eight years – with Mr Tusk at the helm for most of them – before the current conservative team won power in 2015.

The EU and its court have opened procedures against Poland’s current government, saying its changes to the justice system and opposition to some EU decisions, including on relocation of migrants, have gone against the 27-member bloc’s principles.

Mr Tusk said his return was dictated by the conviction that Civic Platform was “necessary as the force … that can win the battle with Law and Justice over Poland’s future”.

Michel Barnier

Michel Barnier, 70, served as the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom from 2019 to 2021, the head negotiator in the fractious pre-Brexit years.

A prominent French politician, his cabinet career and influence dates back to the 1990s.

After the UK officially left the EU, Mr Barnier was appointed as special adviser to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, overseeing the ratification of the Brexit agreement.

And now, he’s preparing to run for the presidency of France.

Mr Barnier is planning to stand as a right-wing candidate against Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 election, saying that limiting immigration would be a key policy pledge.

He said: “In these grave times, I have taken the decision and have the determination to stand … and be the president of a France that is reconciled, to respect the French and have France respected.”

Asked why he wanted to challenge Mr Macron – with whom he had worked closely in the Brexit process – Mr Barnier replied that he wanted to “change the country”.

Barnier is a member of the right-wing Republicans and the most prominent of four candidates from the party to have declared their intention to stand.

Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker, 66, the former Luxembourgish President and President of the European Commission, is well known for his offbeat, informal nature.

Brexit watchers might remember his warm greetings of Theresa May, including a kiss and a hug.

Or perhaps the 2015 EU summit in Latvia, when he greeted the Belgian prime minister by kissing his bald head before announcing, “the dictator is coming!” as Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán arrived, followed by a laugh, a handshake and a slap on the cheek.

He has always been outspoken, even of the institutions he works within.

When his replacement, Ursula von der Leyen, created the new position of “Vice President for Protecting our European Way of Life” with a view to upholding the rule-of-law, migration and internal security in 2019, Mr Juncker criticised her sharply.

He said: “I don’t like the idea that the European way of life is opposed to migration. Accepting those that come from far away is part of the European way of life.”

While Mr Juncker is no longer an official representative of any particular office or party, he still wields considerable influence and often speaks out.

Earlier this year he spoke out about the EU’s Covid vaccine apt with the UK, saying the bloc should step back from waging a “stupid vaccine war” with Britain.

He said: “I do think that we have to pull back from a vaccine war.

“I think that there is room for dialogue, for discussions, for developing arguments on both sides of the Channel.

“Nobody in Britain, nobody in Europe understands why we are witnessing, according to the news, a stupid vaccine war … We are not in war, and we are not enemies. We are allies.”

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