Michel Barnier awarded 'European of the Year' for Brexit efforts
Michel Barnier has become the first foreign winner of the European of the Year award given by the European Movement Ireland group thanks to his work on Brexit negotiations.
The EU negotiator was given the award via a virtual ceremony for his role in defending the Republic of Ireland's interests during Brexit negotiations.
Barner also received praised from Irish prime minister Michael Martin and foreign minister Simon Coveney.
In a message from Dublin, Martin said: "Over the past four years you have come to represent for so many of us see in Ireland all that is best about the European Union.
"Over the past four years a very particular bond has been formed between you and the people in Ireland.
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"That you are so well known is a reflection of the fact that from the beginning spared no effort to understand the unique and disproportionate challenges facing our island in the context of Brexit."
Coveney added: "I had the privilege of working closely with you from the very start of the Brexit negotiations and you have never faltered through our regular meetings in Brussels, Dublin and beyond.
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"I’ve been struck, not only by how effectively and persuasively you’ve represented the EU’s interest and values, but also by the enormous effort you’ve made to understand the specific issues affecting our island."
Coveney invited Barnier for a fishing trip in the west of Ireland to celebrate their work together.
Barnier becomes the first non-Irish European of the Year.
Thanking the Movement, Barnier said: "It means even more to me knowing that I am the first non-Irish person to receive it – even though I feel a bit personally Irish."
Speaking about Brexit, he said the EU had much to learn from Britain's exit from the bloc.
He said across many member states "there is this anger, the same feeling against Europe, the same problem to understand what we’re doing".
Asked about trade disruptions, he said: "Brexit means Brexit, it cannot be business as usual."
He added: "Contrary to what many predicted at the time of the 2016 Brexit referendum, Brexit did not trigger the end of the European Union but the strengthening of its unity.
"Today Brexit has exposed the consequences of leaving the EU for all to see."
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