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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Would Cameron have been able to block Juncker if the Tories were members of the EPP?

No major party in the UK backed Jean-Claude Juncker, or any other 'Spitzenkandidat'. It is therefore fair to say that the UK electorate had no influence over the course of what some describe as an 'election'.

The counter-charge is that David Cameron is to blame because he 'left' the main centre-right group - the European People's Party (EPP).  Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy made this point yesterday in the Commons - which was also alluded to by Labour MPs. If Cameron was a member, so the argument goes, he could have blocked Juncker's appointment as the candidate and then had some say over the 'election campaign' and associated deals. Critics are zooming in on the meeting of EPP-affiliated leaders in Dublin in early March, at which Juncker was selected (behind closed doors no less).

It may not be that simple though:
  • The Conservative Party was never a member of the EPP. It was a member of the European Democrats (ED) that was linked to the EPP in the so-called EPP-ED. As such, the Tories didn't have offical 'voting rights' and therefore David Cameron would not have had a vote over Juncker's appointment. 
  • It's also worth noting that the Labour Party, although being a member of the S&D group failed to block Martin Schulz as their group's Spitzenkandidaten.
  • Likewise the Liberal Democrats failed to block Guy Verhofstadt as the ALDE candidate
There's an argument that Cameron could have used the political influence and clout garnered from being associated with the EPP to stop Jucnker, even absent a formal vote. However, other EPP leaders had limited influence on the EPP candidate. Sweden's Moderaterna were opposed but were over-ruled. Berlusconi failed to attend and Hungary's Orban was hostile.

In any case, we will never know.

The reason the Conservative Party left the EPP-ED is because they did not agree with the EPP's push for further integration. The wider problem for the UK political parties - and reform-minded parties in other countries too - is that their views are grossly under-represented in the main groups. This, in turn, links to to the fundamental problem with the European Parliament itself (as we argued here).


For the record this is how the EPP delegates voted to adopt Juncker, so Cameron's vote would have made little difference - but again, we won't know:

EPP delegate votes to adopt Juncker as candidate


Denis Cooper said...

As Cameron says he is opposed to the Spitzenkandidaten process in principle it seems immaterial and irrelevant whether or not the EPP might have chosen a different person as its Spitzenkandidat.

And as Cameron says he regards it as a fundamental principle that the EU leaders should choose the President (and other members) of the Commission clearly he should not be satisfied with moves just to prevent the Spitzenkandidaten process being repeated next time, if that was possible, because that would not prevent a majority of MEPs still deciding that they wanted a certain person to be President of the Commission and placing the EU leaders under duress to choose that person by threatening that they will not vote to approve any other person as President, or vote to approve a Commission with any other person as President as they would have had to do before the small modification made by the Treaty of Amsterdam.

If Cameron really wants that fundamental principle to be reinstated then he must press for a treaty change to reverse the change made by the Maastricht Treaty, when MEPs were not only given the right to be consulted on, but the power of veto over, the composition of the Commission.

Is he going to do that? Is he really going to tell other EU leaders that he wants to deprive MEPs of the power of veto, and so the ability to place them under duress, that his Tory predecessor Major agreed MEPs should be granted over two decades ago?

Anonymous said...

The EPP must be incompetent.
They had a 'closed door' meeting and some how let 800 people plus the media into it.

Pictures of the event have even escaped onto Wikipedia

Peter van Leeuwen said...

I think Cameron lacked creativity. Only because he was determined to play to his eurosceptic home crowd and make a huge issue out of Juncker, did other leaders (especially Merkel) decide to decide on the Council's recommendation so quickly and accept Britain's defeat as collateral damage.
Having antagonised his 26 colleagues, Cameron is inevitably due to pay a price one day, which is not in Britain's interest. For the moment other leaders will fear that Cameron has turned into a liability, who by design or failure will cause a Brexit anyway. They may use him for reforms that they want anyway, but they will hope that he won't return in 2015. I could expect a similar attitude and lack of support from the US, the City, and the larger businesses in Britain.

Average Englishman said...

I cannot agree with you on a number of counts.

Cameron may have 'played to his Eurosceptic home crowd' but playing the tune of the electorate is what a democratically elected politician should do, not keep them in the dark and feed them with lies and contempt like many Eurocrats are happy to. Whether or not he annoyed some other heads of state in Europe is immaterial; at least for whatever reason he set out a logical'ish case (setting aside that the damage was done at Maastricht many years ago) and stood by his decision.

Everyone with any sense knows that the EU needs massive reform and anyone who is honest about the matter would agree that Juncker is not the man to deliver such changes. The other politicians were wrong and Dave (for once) was right.

As for the US, well, so far as I can see they haven't got a foreign policy worth a damn any more and they have been wrong about Europe for many years anyway. They see the EU countries as one handy trading block with no real concern for their individualities and want their little old Anglo Saxon buddy the UK inside to help them keep the beggars in check. The UK does not exist to keep the dullards in the US State Department happy.

The City of London is coming round at last against the UK staying in the EU, as it sees more future profits for The City outside of Europe and riles at the ever more expensive and annoying legislation coming from Brussels.

Big business? Well some may be unhappy but many more will not be bothered or will be content for a UK withdrawal but in any event, Dave and his crew are slowly beginning to understand that it is not big business that rules the UK, it is more small businesses and the people employed by them. A lot of us are mightily cheesed off with the EU and are keen to leave; hence UKIP. That party did not spring out of nowhere because of smiling Nigel, it arrived courtesy of an ever growing army of ordinary citizens who do not want their children's futures to rely upon the type of undemocratic double dealing seen in Brussels recently.

Nope, Dave did something useful for a change, for whatever reason and it will do him no harm where it counts for him, at the ballot box. Having said that, he's still likely to lose the next General Election unless he really turns Eurosceptic and pledges a UK withdrawal because the Average Englishman is still not going to vote for him otherwise.

Rollo said...