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Thursday, June 26, 2014

If Juncker is appointed as President of the EU Commission David Cameron will be one step closer to advocating an ‘out’ vote

Open Europe's Christopher Howarth wrote the following article on Conservative Home

Imagine you woke up in a state where the head of the civil service was elected – but not by you. Imagine a state where the top governmental positions were settled in deals in meetings to which your elected representatives were not invited. Imagine that this system had been introduced without your approval. Well, you may soon be living in it if Jean-Claude Juncker becomes President of the European Commission.

So what should David Cameron do? His options are limited; the UK lost the veto on this appointment under the terms of the Nice Treaty in 2001. He can vote against, but cannot prevent himself being outvoted.

This is a major problem on two levels. First, by appointing Juncker EU member states have conceded the precedent that the European Parliament is now responsible for selecting the Commission President. This will politicise the Commission, and make it subject to perennial Brussels political deals between MEP factions. Juncker’s route to power has been paved by a series of such contradictory deals cut firstly with the Christian Democrat EPP; then the Socialist S&D; then, reportedly, the Socialist Prime Minister of Italy and French President – and allegedly the German mass circulation Bild newspaper. Needless to say, this bears no relation to the results of the recent European Elections and is a straightforward power grab. It is a cession of power not authorised or even discussed in the UK Parliament.

Beyond the principle and the person, Juncker’s appointment presents a strategic headache for David Cameron and his Europe policy. The assumed policy is to provide enough tangible evidence that the EU can reform to allow Cameron to advocate an ‘In’ vote in his promised 2017 referendum. In doing so, he has bet the farm (or the UK’s EU membership) on his belief that other member states, notably Germany, will wish to bail him out. Juncker’s appointment is a clear message that he cannot always rely on his fellow leaders to see him through when they come under their own domestic pressure.

So what should Cameron do? He could take being outvoted on the chin, hope for some consolation prize and pray that, next time, EU leaders will help him to deliver change. This is a risky approach. An alternative would be to send a direct message to his fellow leaders that he is not just in favour of EU reform but also believes that it is fundamental to the UK’s continued membership. Cameron could say that if the EU continues in the manner of Juncker’s appointment he will have no choice but to advocate an Out vote.

This would be interpreted as a threat, and be greeted by a wall of hostility in Brussels – but it would have the benefit of being true. It is not an idle threat. Cameron’s plan to base his referendum on the potential for EU reform was the right one, and one from which he cannot back down. Nor can he back the UK’s membership come what may. If he tried to pull the Harold Wilson trick of presenting a few concessions as a major triumph, he will be found out. After over 40 years of EU membership, a cynical British public will not be fooled. Remembering that Cameron was unable to block Juncker will not help in this regard. Cameron has to succeed in EU reform if he is to advocate an ‘in’ vote – it is time others in the EU began to realise that and act accordingly, or it may be Out by default.


Jesper said...

He might set the date for a referendum. The next parliament might, if it so chooses, cancel the referendum.

The EP looks set to do a big power grab. The EP demands a lot of power to be transferred to it as payment for its support of grabbing the power of appointing the commission. Would be funny if it wouldn't be true, but looking on what the other groups demand for supporting Juncker...

& this:

Payment and benefits as if they were three groups but in effect only being one? Seems like it would be time to reform the group system. But if it is the EP to decide then about their own benefits...

Denis Cooper said...

"First, by appointing Juncker EU member states have conceded the precedent that the European Parliament is now responsible for selecting the Commission President. This will politicise the Commission, and make it subject to perennial Brussels political deals between MEP factions."

It's far too late to worry about that now; Major should never have agreed to the EU Parliament being involved in the first place, over two decades ago now.

At the risk of once again boring some anonymous person who is not in the least interested in such details, see Article 158 here in the Maastricht Treaty, dated 1992:


Note the change from the old system of the President and other members of the Commission being "appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States", without any reference to the EU Parliament, to the new system of the persons nominated being "subject as a body to a vote of approval by the European Parliament".

Once you agree that henceforth the EU Parliament can veto the proposed Commission as a whole, as Major did as part of his brilliant "Game, set and match for Britain" achievement at Maastricht, then you are opening the door to MEPs saying that they will not accept a Commission that includes this specified person as a member, or that they will only accept a Commission with this other specified person as its President.

Everything that followed in subsequent amending treaties - allowing MEPs to veto a proposed President on his own right at the start, as well as still being able to veto the whole Commission at a later stage, and abolishing the national veto on the European Council for these decisions, and saying that their decisions had to take into account the elections to the EU Parliament - were just minor developments that all followed from the original decision, supported by Cameron's Tory predecessor Major, that henceforth the EU Parliament should be involved and moreover it should have a veto.

Anonymous said...

> Needless to say, this bears no relation to the results of >the recent European Elections and is a straightforward power grab.

So the fact that the main candidate of the collectively strongest party, who has a clear majority among elected MEPs, gets the presidency "bears no relation to the results" of the recent elections? That is a ludicruous claim. Britain always points to a "democratic deficit" of the EU, but a clear step to more democracy is suddenly denounced as a "power grab".

You have to realize that a big UKiP win in England does not mean they, and their skeptic Tory counterparts, get to run Europe even though the skeptics barely got 1/7th of the seats in the EP.

Much as I would regret a British exit, it would also be a relief to not have to hear the hypocritical whining and culturally based resentment ALL the time. Good grief, just leave if you don't see how much potential this EU still has, and if you are not willing to accept collective, democratic decision making.

Anonymous said...

Yes please, I'd love to leave, and the sooner the better.

Average Englishman said...

This whole process was so predictable. It's just the enacting step by step of 'ever closer union'. Sooner or later the UK public and even our politicians had to wake up to the fact that we either have to accept full rule from Brussels as a part of a federal EUSSR or get out. The sooner we leave the better and then not only will Anonymous 1 not have to listen to reason from the UK but us UK types will not have to listen to the EU fanatics any more or pay for them!

Better off out and as soon as we can. Party time.