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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You can't accuse Cameron of lacking principles while blaming him for taking a principled stand

There's something quite ironic going on in all this Cameron-bashing over Juncker. The charge against Cameron in Europe (and also at home) is often that he lacks principles. That he's pushed around by backbenchers or pursues narrow tactical personal or national interest.

Now that he has come out fighting for a principle - in this case whether powers should be arbitrarily transferred to Brussels and key decisions made by a fledgling transnational parliament with very limited democratic support, rather than democratically elected national governments and parliaments - he's being accused of blundering diplomacy.

Yes, of course, Cameron could have done things differently. But if he believes that the principle is wrong, can you blame him for, as he says, fighting "until the end". In contrast, Angela Merkel - who's a formidable power politician and who we have a lot of respect for in general - is flip-flopping like crazy over Juncker. And Matteo Renzi, the Italian PM, is busy striking back-room deals to let Italy off the hook on EU budget rules in exchange for backing Juncker.

On this occasion, Cameron wasn't even pushed around by his own backbenchers. In fact, Better Off Outers would probably love to see Juncker become President as it'll strengthen their cause. Also, some sceptics see this as a "pointless battle." So, Cameron seems to be taking a genuinely principled stance even if it comes with a political price.

In a sense, one could argue that, rather than the Spitzenkandidaten process falling victim to British politics, Cameron has fallen victim to German domestic politics.

Yesterday Handelsblatt's London correspondent Matthias Thibault sort of picked up on this theme arguing:
“We should thank David Cameron,” because, “at least we know where he stands – not only regarding Juncker – but also on the future direction of the EU. We still don’t know where the German Chancellor stands… But at some point she will have to decide, if, and how much, play-room she wants to give her British friend.”
So did a former judge at the German Constitutional Court, Udo di Fabio, who wrote last week in FAZ:
"The fact that there were candidates for the post of the Commission President is a fact created in the political realm, however with little proven resonance by the voters. This fact is neither legally nor politically binding for the Council’s suggestion [of the Commission President]."  

"Those who resent the British Prime Minister for having an opinion on personnel-related issues did not understand the system. Those who demand the British exit or approvingly accept it because the UK does not want to follow rules which are not to be found in the [EU] treaties want a different Europe than what is laid down in the treaties."  

"More centralisation in some areas is possible, but one has to soberly discuss the repatriation or a better separation of powers in areas such as labour and social law. Relevant proposals from the Netherlands or the UK should not be immediately viewed suspiciously as re-nationalisation programmes."     


Ray said...

It's weird, and confusing somewhat, what exactly is Cameron up to? Is this all a show? knowing that whoever gets the jobs is going to be a federalist anyway, and then he can say "I tried". If it is then I think he is mistaken, and has only proved that he has no influence in Brussels as the sceptics have been saying all along. Which would have been true whichever candidate he opposed, or even supported if that candidate also didn't get the job. His problem is also that not getting involved would have left him in as much trouble, but might have been the better option. I hope Juncker gets the job to maximise the slap in the face that will be for him.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Camoron is a dyed in the wool europhile and his complaints about Junker seem more to do with the tory party having left the epp and not wanting the epp candidate to be president although that is almost guaranteed to happen. It's the wrong argument at the wrong time, as ever because he knows that even if he wanted reform he couldn't get it.

Rollo said...

Is this the same 'Cast Iron Pledge' Cameron you are discussing? The man has no principles except for saying what he thinks his audience wants: in this case what he thinks half of his party and the nation wants: to stand up for less Europe. And he has been swatted aside, as he deserves.

Denis Cooper said...

Why is a former judge of the German constitutional court even expressing an opinion on this matter? It would not be for any national court but for the EU's own Court of Justice to decide whether the European Council is legally bound to accept the candidate proposed by the European Parliament through the Spitzenkandidaten process.

Or do some Germans still harbour the delusion that in such a matter their national constitutional court is superior to the EU supreme court created by all of the EU member states through their EU treaties, not only agreed by all the national governments but approved by all their respective national parliaments, which they have endowed with the right of final interpretation of those treaties and laws springing from them?

It was not the European Parliament which decided to insert an amendment into the EU treaties so that henceforth the the nomination of the President of the EU Commission should be made "taking into account the elections to the European Parliament", the treaty change cited by those MEPs who came up with the idea of Spitzenkandidaten and who now claim that Juncker must be nominated.

That stupid decision was taken solely by the governments of the member states acting unanimously in their intergovernmental conference, and then approved by every one of their respective national parliaments, and in the case of Ireland it was directly approved by the Irish people in their second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

You can see that here in the Final Act for the Lisbon Treaty:


"THE CONFERENCE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE MEMBER STATES, convened in Brussels on 23 July 2007 to adopt by common accord the amendments to be made to the
Treaty on European Union, the Treaty establishing the European Community, and to the Treaty
establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, has adopted the following texts:

I. The Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the
European Community ... "

The EU Parliament did not decide to change the way in which the President of the EU Commission would be chosen so that its leading members would be able to impose their choice on the member state governments, it was the governments and parliaments of the member states, and in the case of Ireland the national electorate, which decided to give that hostage to fortune.

And let us remember that on November 4th 2009 when Cameron announced that he was going to swallow the Lisbon Treaty whole as a fait accompli this was just one of the many treaty changes he was accepting; he cannot now claim that this is a matter of principle, when the time for him to stand up for principle came and went long ago and he was found wanting; like Brown he allowed Merkel to walk all over him, in the end, and more importantly she walked all over the British people.

Anonymous said...

Cameron will get credit with the electorate for taking this stance. And like Major said will get reforms Merkel,germany wants many of the UK reforms.

Ian Campbell said...

Right as Cameron is to try to prevent Juncker getting the job, principles are convenient for Cameron in this case. He needed to fight him because of the 'I told you so' reaction that will be inevitable if Juncker gets over-promoted (again) and because he had not been anything like tough, nor specific, enough with the EU by not letting them know we will not stay without Reform Max.

Average Englishman said...

Cameron's huff and puff is all show for the media and his backbenchers. If he had principles he would have initiated the referendum he promised previously.

As for potential reforms. Even if Dave were to succeeed in full with his aspirations for change the changes would still be very short of the requirements of the UK public.

Dave is a commited Europhile with a track record of saying one thing and doing another. In other words, he is a standard issue member of the traditional UK political elite who are certain that they know better than us plebs what's good for us. He therefore fits very well with the EUSSR elite who think exactly the same way. The differences are just a matter of method, detail and timing, not substance.

The UK is leaving whether he likes it or not and if he cannot get on this train he will be run over by it.

Jesper said...

A leader for change would have shown leadership and had the issue of who chooses the commission president decided before the election. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the EP didn't bother to get the agreement with the council before the election.

EP can't even plan for that and we're expected to take it seriously?
Whatever did they do that they thought was more prioritised than this?
Maybe one of the almost countless non-binding resolutions was seen as more important to get done?

Since the proposed change by the EP was not agreed upon before the election it cannot be changed now.

Anonymous said...

He has promised a referendum 2017, wasnt Lisbon ratified by Labour, latest yougov 57% in favour staying in a reformed Eu 22% against.

Denis Cooper said...

If I wanted to say something favourable about Major I would also want be anonymous!

Denis Cooper said...

If I wanted to say something favourable about Major I would also want to be anonymous!