Britain has always been referred to as the “awkward partner” in Europe, and that has never been truer than now. After spending the last two weeks fighting against the European People’s party’s nomination for Commission presidency, Jean- Claude Juncker, Cameron has once again placed Britain at loggerheads with Europe. In a recent article for The Telegraph he stated “an important principle was at stake” at the forced vote on the Commission presidency last Friday, arguing that the European Parliament should not have a say in the appointment of the EU commissioner. The new rules laid out in the 2007 Lisbon Treaty means the European Council- the elected Heads of State of each EU member country- must now take into account the European Parliament’s choice of candidate for nomination.
Cameron also argues that Juncker is an arch-federalist who will see the ‘ever closer union’ of Europe. In some respects this is true. As the previous President of Luxembourg, a country that majorly benefits from the EU, he is likely to fight for further integration. He is also seen as one of the architects of the Euro. Moreover, the future Commissioner has openly stated in the past that he was for ‘secret dark debates’ that could leave Britain outside the negotiating room. However Juncker’s recent promises to ‘address UK concerns’ over its place in Europe has left the Prime minister ‘humiliated’ according to Ed Miliband.
The Labour leader claims that Cameron’s ability to win over only one country, Hungary, to vote against Juncker at last Friday’s summit leaves his European renegotiation strategy “in tatters”. Also stating he was “out-witted, out-manoeuvred and out-voted” in Europe. German media have ridiculed the ‘defeated’ PM, comparing Cameron to Wayne Rooney: “He lines up, he loses, he goes home”.
Criticisms have also come from within the coalition. Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy attacked the Prime minister in Parliament today for the removal of the Conservatives from the European People’s party, as the Prime minister could have “influenced in private instead of [showing] impotence in public”. However this largely highlights the bigger issue within the European Union: the lack of democracy. The debate over the next EU commissioner has become highly heated as the unelected position wields great amounts of power over the European Commission, the only body that can initiate new laws within the EU.Deputy Prime minister Nick Clegg has remained relatively silent throughout the affair, stating only that it was time to “move on” from Juncker’s appointment to “secure Britain’s place permanently in the European Union”.
There does, however, seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel for Britain. The vice-president of the European Commission, Joaquin Almunia, has stated that “it would be very bad news” if the UK were to leave Europe; suggesting a deal may be struck for renegotiation. Talking about the new President of the EU, he commented that while Mr Juncker was “a committed pro-European” he was also a “pragmatic politician”.
Contributed by George Waddell