Cameron vows to fight Juncker ‘to the end’

David Cameron [Number 10/Flickr]
David Cameron [Number 10/Flickr]

British Prime Minister David Cameron promised on Wednesday (25 June) to oppose Jean-Claude Juncker becoming the next president of the European Commission "to the end" after a minister in his own coalition government queried the way he handled Europe policy.

Addressing parliament on the eve of a summit of EU leaders in Belgium on Thursday and Friday at which Juncker is expected to be appointed to the top EU job, Cameron signalled again he would not back down, even though his attempts to rally support against Juncker have fallen flat.

"I think it's important on this issue to stand up and speak for what you believe in," Cameron said, calling the European Parliament-inspired move to give Juncker the senior role "a power grab" at the expense of elected EU leaders.

"I also think it's important that the people involved understand that we need reform in Europe and it doesn't matter how hard I have to push this case. I will take it all the way to the end," he said.

The Conservative leader has demanded that European leaders vote on whether Juncker should become the next president of the EU executive, arguing he is too integrationist and reform-resistant. That has Cameron isolated and frustrated in Brussels.

Cameron, who has promised to try to recast Britain's EU ties and offer Britons an in/out EU membership referendum, made his latest defiant promise to oppose Juncker after Business Secretary Vince Cable, a member of the Liberal Democrat party, Cameron's junior coalition partner, criticised him.

"I think he [Cameron] was right to take the position he did. But the way it's been done unfortunately has not helped Britain punch its weight in Europe," Cable told BBC radio.

When asked whether he accepted Cable's analysis, Cameron's official spokesman made it clear the prime minister was irritated by the intervention from a coalition minister and thought his own approach on Europe correct.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which won last month's European elections in Britain, said Cameron was riding for a fall.

"Cameron has completely misjudged this. He looks absolutely ludicrous, he has said he will fight this to the bitter end and he is going to lose," Farage told an audience of investors at an financial conference in London.

Coalition tensions

Two of Cameron's ministers spoke out on Europe, too.

Nicky Morgan, the newly-appointed minister in charge of financial services, said she would push the EU to improve the way it set financial rules, promising to protect London's role as a global financial sector, and demanding better assessments of the impact of new regulations.

David Lidington, Britain's minister for Europe, told an audience in Berlin that choosing Juncker for the Commission job risked turning the EU executive into "a creature" of the European Parliament.

Cable's intervention reflected tensions inside the coalition ahead of next year's national election.

The Liberal Democrats have cast themselves as Britain's most pro-European political party in contrast to Cameron's Conservatives, who have tried to strike a more Eurosceptic tone to respond to the rise of UKIP.

Those tensions were expected to surface again later on Wednesday when Danny Alexander, a senior Liberal Democrat minister at the finance ministry, gives a speech in which he will say officials have calculated that 3.3 million British jobs depend on the country's membership of the 28-nation bloc.

Some EU insiders think Cameron's handling of the Juncker appointment has embarrassed allies and emboldened adversaries, while weakening his credibility on Europe at home and abroad.

An opinion poll published in Wednesday's Financial Times newspaper suggested, however, that some British voters think he has played it well.

The Populus/FT survey found that 49% thought he was "strong" by taking a stand, while only 22% thought he would be perceived as weak if, as expected, he failed to win the vote, a finding his political opponents will find uncomfortable.

External links: 
  • 26-27 June: EU summit expected to designate new EU Commission President
  • 1-3 July: First plenary session of the newly constituted European Parliament. Informal negotiations with EU heads of states
  • 14-17 July: Parliament votes to approve or reject Commission president nominee in Strasbourg plenary session
  • Summer: National leaders designate their commissioners to Brussels. New president distributes portfolios within his team of 28 commissioners
  • September: Each commissioner is scrutinised in individual hearings before Parliament committees
  • October: European Parliament votes to approve or reject new Commission College as a whole
  • 1 November: Target date for new Commission to take office


tomasipaolo's picture

I think that Cameron has, in fact, nothing special against Juncker. His opposition is based, it seems, on Juncker being "too unionist" and "resistant to reform". This is vague at best, and while it can support a different preference (which so far Cameron has failed to express), it does not justify a stubborn resistance "to the bitter end". But this is a political stance, it is made to satisfy the public at home, and make Cameron appear like a hero when ,predictably, he loses his cause against all the others (no member state has veto power anymore, sorry UK but that went long ago) . Nothing is liked more by the British public than a heroically lost battle. And of course Cameron knows he will lose, so he will use his defeat as political capital to obtain concessions on something else - or so he hopes, at least. Of course, this has the rather serious side-effect of annoying the other member states...

Mike Parr's picture

Once upon a time when British leaders lost things (like battles) they tended to end up.... well like Admiral Byng who in the 18th century was executed on his own quarter deck for losing - I think it was Majorca. - pour encourager les autres - one supposes.

Whilst I'm not suggesting execution for the UK PM, it does look as though he has incredibly poor judgement - and whilst him and his Bullingdon mates believe they are born to rule - I'd suggest that past & current events show that they are unfit to run a fish and chip shop - let alone a country.

Mike Parr's picture

My prediction for tomorrow - by the way - is that Moron-Con will standup & walk out - roughly the equivalent of a baby throwing its toys around when it does not get its own way - any way that's my hope.