BRUSSELS, Feb 12 (Reuters) – Michel Barnier has a dealmaker’s flair for gauging what the other side can accept but as Theresa May prepares to launch Brexit negotiations some EU officials wonder if Brussels’ man can really figure out what she wants.
That is a nagging question for European Union leaders who need the veteran French minister and EU commissioner to best the British premier in a grand bargain that will usher Britain out, keep the other 27 member states in and limit the economic harm.
“He’s very good at working out what people want, where the landing zones are to get them to agreement,” said one of several people who have worked with Barnier and spoke to Reuters about the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. “He reads a room very well.”
Yet some EU officials wonder if he might be “too French” or “too European” to get inside the opposition’s head: “I wonder if he really understands the Brits?” said one fellow negotiator.