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Blair, Brussels and Barnier
People’s Vote, Issue 1486

blair-barnier.jpg
NON, NON, NON: Former prime minister Tony Blair, (right) whose pleading email pursuit of Michel Barnier began last January
TONY BLAIR still poses as a key political player, swanking about his influential private chats with the panjandrums of Brussels. Theresa May and the media have taken him at his own estimation, furiously denouncing his alleged one-man diplomatic initiative. But is he quite so plugged-in to the EU’s Brexit taskforce as he would have us believe?

Blair contacted Michel Barnier’s team back in January this year to request a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. He must have been confident of his chances given that Barnier had that month met a delegation of low-profile Brexiteer businessmen, such as TV shopping tat’s John Mills, which was led by an even lower-profile MEP, Steven Woolfe.

Alas! “Michel Barnier’s schedule is unfortunately rather full,” came the reply, in the first of a long chain of emails obtained by the Eye. Undeterred, Blair’s people tried again the next month. The former PM would be in Brussels on 28 February and 1 March to give a speech about stopping Brexit, and would be “most grateful” if Barnier “might have some time to meet with him during this trip?” Encore non. “I will let you know if his schedule would change but it is unlikely that we can make this work,” Barnier’s people replied.

‘One-to-one time’
It was getting embarrassing. “Mr Blair would very much like to visit Brussels in order to have a private meeting with Mr Barnier,” his assistant pleaded on 4 June. How about 3 July, for instance? Back came the rebuff: “Mr Barnier will be in Strasbourg on 3 July.”

Blair’s team raised the stakes with their most desperate move yet: “We would be willing to cancel Mr Blair’s current appointments in Brussels and transfer his day to Strasbourg – we would really be grateful if a slot that morning might be found?” Nothing doing. “Strasbourg is not possible schedule-wise,” read the fourth rejection letter.

As if taking pity on the former PM, team Barnier finally offered an alternative at 4pm on 18 July, a full six months after receiving his first request. Delighted and grateful, Blair had one last plaintive request: although other people would be present, his PA wrote, “perhaps Mr Blair and Mr Barnier might have some private one-to-one time at the end of the meeting?”

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