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Friday, June 27, 2014

The Juncker row: Were there any concessions to the UK and what happens next?

The UK suffered a major defeat this afternoon when it was outvoted over Juncker becoming the next president of the European Commission. However, this isn't the end of the road for reform – not even close – but it certainly has strengthened the risk of Britain leaving the EU. See here for a our full analysis of this.

So did the UK get any early concessions? In his press conference, David Cameron took his defeat on the chin and said it would make his reform strategy harder:
“Today’s outcome is not the one I wanted. And it makes it harder, and the stakes higher…This is going to be a long, tough fight and sometimes you have to be ready to lose a battle to win a war. It has only stiffened my resolve to fight for reform in the EU, because it is crying out for it.”
Cameron was asked whether much more of this kind of thing would prompt him to recommend an ‘Out’ vote in a referendum. He declined the offer but did make the point that:
“And at the end of 2017, it will not be me, it will not be the House of Commons, it won’t be Brussels who decide about Britain’s future in the European Union. It will be the British people. It will be their choice, and their choice alone.”
 There were three nods to the UK in the Council conclusions:
  • “The UK raised some concerns related to the future development of the EU. These concerns will need to be addressed.”
  • “The European Council noted that the concept of ever closer union allows for different paths of integration for different countries, allowing those that want to deepen integration to move ahead, while respecting the wish of those who do not want to deepen any further.” 
  • “Once the new European Commission is in place, the European Council will consider the process for the appointment of the President of the European Commission for the future, respecting the European Treaties.”  
Any of this significant? It’s the basis for a conversation but can mean anything and nothing at the moment. It falls way short of compensating for the defeat inflicted on Cameron. As we argue, it all depends on what happens next.

There were also this on the role of national parliaments:
"In line with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, the Union must concentrate its action on areas where it makes a real difference. It should refrain from taking action when member states can better achieve the same objectives. The credibility of the Union depends on its ability to ensure adequate follow-up on decisions and commitments. This requires strong and credible institutions, but will also benefit from closer involvement of national parliaments."
Again, hardly earth-shattering. So what happens next?

Well, in the short-term, there are three things to watch:
  1. Will there but further nods to Cameron over the next few days and weeks? There’s already talk of Merkel, Hollande and Cameron doing something jointly. 
  2. Who will become the European Council President? This is in many ways the person who will broker the agreement between EU leaders that will decide whether the UK will stay in the EU. This will be decided at an EU summit on 17th June. 
  3. The other portfolios in the European Commission and who will become the UK’s candidate. Surely, Cameron must now respond by sending a big hitter to secure a top job?


Peter van Leeuwen said...

The UK is only a partial EU member (missing the core areas Schengen, euro and judicial cooperation) and thus cannot be expected to grasp the EU entirely. It can only push for reform in areas it is involved in such as the single market and its regulations. Contrary to Cameron, Juncker has to deal with all areas. Given that the EU is such a complex structure between its 28 nations, it is good that the next EC president doesn't need a learning curve

David Horton said...

With the exception of Hungary, Britain's supposed allies evaporated under pressure from the EU and Frau Merkel. Hardly surprising given that the eurozone nations are cowed by the fiscal stranglehold of the EU Commission, ECB and Frau Merkel's Germany.

I am a UKIP convert and not a Cameron fan, yet I was favourably impressed by Mr Cameron's courage and integrity at the EU Council yesterday.

What was absolutely sickening was when immediately afterwards, all these erstwhile friends fell over themselves to offer olive branches and nebulous reassurances. It was embarrassingly obvious to all, that Cameron, far from being isolated, was in waving the banner that they themselves did not have the courage to wave. Frankly, it was some of the most cowardly diplomacy seen in recent years. The Premiers of Sweden, Latvia, Italy and Netherlands should feel justly ashamed at their pusillanimousness.

Are we friendless in Europe? I no longer care. This appointment of Juncker leaves Britain hovering precariously at the exit door. I hope that we go through it and into the brave world beyond. Frankly, allies like the EU nations, we don't need.

Rik said...

A game is played for different audiences.
Most political games are mainly played for the political insiders.

Few however are not. And this is one of those. Here the UK electorate and the EU electorate are likely more important than the political crowd. Especially seen in the medium and longer term.

This is another example (definitely in the public's eyes) that Europe hasnot learned a lesson from last election. Backroom deals and political appointments (not in anyway on merit).

From there it hardly matters if Cameron got change. Especially seen the fact that there is no open, clear for all deal (on compensation).
People in general understand the horsetrading part (although not particularly liking it). But this gives the image of the UK getting an unacceptable candidate pushed through the throat iso an exchange (just by the way it is presented).
Re the Continental voter it looks like political games continue as usual.

Cameron has made it an 'on principles' issue and especially the UK electorate sees it that way. Also on the continental front it will look that way. Appointing a substandard candidate that nobody really wants for political reasons and via political games.

Horsetrading on main issues when properly and clearly communicated is likely acceptable. Political games however like here are not. Political games and the sense of misrepresentation are eg the reasons why the US House approvalrate is 15%, just to give an example.

Therefor in the longer run very likely this will turn out to be a larger defeat for the pro-Juncker camp than for Cameron. Simply because voters like somebody who fights for them but loses better than somebody who simply ignores their worries and approve a result that results in the same thing (here a Juncker appointment).
Simply the reason eg why populist with no direct realistic chance of governing get huge parts of the vote.
IP got roughly 30% of the vote. While hardly anybody thought that he would get a majority someway or would be able to form a 50%+ coalition. And hardly anybody would think that IP is a well oiled political machine with a huge potential of management talent. Even so Farage got 30% of the vote.
So the potential when there are several proper candidates to become cabinetmembers and it concerns a political party that is mainstream is much higher.

So it doesnot really matter for the EU if Cameron is given change. The PR damage has been done, simply on the first issue give the impression to the electorate that nothing has been learned from the electionresult.

A proper strategy would have presented the EU that is taking the worries of EU serous. Reformminded, likeable and dynamic candidate. And the whole apointmentshow in the light of reform. Another opportunity missed, there will not be many left.

Especially when there is (or could be like here) a new start
that it is a proper one.
Starting with a lot of crap that will later be reversed in some way is in no way similar to starting properly.
Repeating this mistake like the EU does makes things cnsiderably worse.
Just look at the Ukraine Kiew starting with abolishing Russian and subsequently reversing that didnot bring it back to zero. It brought it back from say minus 5 to minus 4. As simply the low credibility that there already was was confirmed. Same with the chocolate president start with shooting and reverse it when it doesnot work, most of the damage has already been done. Now the damage is done and the country is falling apart.

Similar here even when likely under public pressure things like this will be partly reversed. The first impression was of a new non-reform Commission. And as they say:'you only have one opportunity to make a first impression'.

Rik said...

On Merkel in casu

1. In general she simply misses the plot on several important points.

2. It hardly matters for most of the Brits if a substantial part of the decisions the Brits wants to be made by their own parliament by Brussels or by Berlin. Both are simply unacceptable.
Playing the 'Olive Branch' via the media is therefor not without risk. Could end up as counterproductive at the end.
Looks to me like another great campaigning point for Farage to come out of this circus (and we are not even close to half of it yet).

3. Merkel is simply horrible in making tough decissions.

4. Merkel has a short term view. Juncker appointment is pure short term. Advantages will be forgotten when the guy is still in the job (and likely further
erodes the public platform or when you are really unlucky obstructs existentially necessary reforms).

5. Merkel has no vision. In the way that one could have seen this coming. Not directly Dave's approach, but more medium term and the negative PR by apponting a political turd with a negative history in the job.
Taking care a proper candidate would have been appointed would have saved her from all this.
Hardly any strategic version.

5. She is playing like Cameron is the only decisionmaker. He is not at the end of the day the potential Tory electorate is (and the are not happy with this).
In that respect Cameron's best reaction is alsomre or les determined. He simply has to keep acting like he is p!$$ed off in a considerable degree.
He simply needs that for his own credibility especially on the EU issue.
Merky simply completely missed that. Thereby upgrading the Detcom level of this discussion.
Not bad for Cameron probably at home. He had to do it anyway to restore his credibility on the issue (and now has a nice excuse).

6. Same btw with the Swedish guy. The least you can do is vote against a guy you yourself think is completely crap. Doing a lot sounds completely hollow this way.

Peter van Leeuwen said...

@David Horton: You rely too much on British media. The Netherlands' prime-minister has never ever said anything negative about Juncker as a person or politician. Rutte has pushed for the European Council deciding on an strict agenda and fewer priorities for the European commission and succeeded. Cameron failed, predictably.

Rollo said...

This Peter is wrong to think that it is the British press that is at fault. It is the British people, sick of the never ending pile of regulation making business less competitive, the endless traffic jams caused by the explosion of the population (all of which is down to immigrants and their families), the complete waste of our money on an un-auditable foreign power which we pay to tell us what we are allowed to do. We need to get out, into the real, growing world, instead of remaining shackled to the sinking ship of the EU.

Average Englishman said...

OE, where was the 'nod from the Council' that the UK and some other member states want a reverse gear installed into the EU? Slower assimilation is not good enough. The UK people want no more than the Common Market they sanctioned originally and the longer the Eu bureaucrats and other EU leaders prevaricate, the more likely it is that the UK will leave the EU altogether. It is not that these people do not understand this, they just refuse to accept it and hope that if they manage to stall things long enough the matter will eventually go away; rather like the Euro crisis. It will not. The cry for change and in particular a UK exit will get louder not fade away.