Michel Barnier out of French presidential election race

Michel Barnier poses prior the debate between the Les Republicains (LR) candidates for the French presidential election (AFP via Getty Images)

Michael Barnier has been ruled out of the French presidential race after Eric Ciotti and Valarie Pécresse won the first round of the Republican primary on Thursday.

Despite poll predictions suggesting the former chief Brexit negotiator and ex-health minister Xavier Bertrand would battle it out for the top spot, a recent surge in popularity for Ciotti and Pécresse saw them quality with 25.6 per cent and 25 percent respectively.

The pair are set for a showdown second vote on Saturday to determine who will take on Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election come April 2022.

Mr Ciotti is often described as having views which align with the far-right. His victory today came as he proposed a more severe approach to immigration.

Valerie Pécresse is a moderate who heads the greater Paris region. If she successful in her bid for leadership on Saturday, she will be the first female candidate for the presidency for the Republicans.

Previous favourite for the position, Xavier Betrand, has since tweeted in support for Ms Pécresse, saying: “I thank the Republican members who trusted me. For the second round I will vote @vpecresse and I call for the rally behind her.”

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Michel Barnier has also shared in backing her, tweeting on Thursday that he thinks Ms Pécresse is best prepared for victory against Mr Macron.

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France’s incumbent president, Emmanuel Macron, remains ahead in the polls as the clear favourite to win the 2022 vote despite not confirming his bid in the election.

Immigration and security look set to be the hot topic of the election debates as the Channel’s migrant crisis rages on.

It comes as former French ambassador to London, Sylvie Bermann, said that cross-Channel relations had “never been so bad since Waterloo”.

Last week, at least 27 people drowned in the worst disaster of its kind in the English Channel, escalating political tensions with France following months of record crossings.

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