Juncker tells Cameron: I will renegotiate UK membership

Jean-Claude Juncker [dpa]
Jean-Claude Juncker [dpa]

Jean-Claude Juncker, the centre-right candidate for European Commission president, said on Wednesday (23 April) that renegotiating the UK’s European Union membership would be one of his priorities if he wins the job.

At a press event in Brussels on Wednesday, Juncker put forward his five priorities in case he becomes the next Commission president after the May European Parliament elections.

In a move to charm the UK's prime minister, David Cameron, the former Luxembourg prime minister stressed that “as commission president, I will work for a fair deal for Britain”.

“No reasonable politician could neglect we have to find solutions for the political concerns in the UK," Juncker said, stressing: "We have to do this to keep UK in.”

Referring to an opinion piece the UK premier wrote in the Daily Telegraph, the centre-right candidate of the European People's Party (EPP) said: “I will be ready to talk to him about these demands in a fair and reasonable manner.”

Juncker added that other EU member states will have to accept some of the UK’s demands in order to placate London, which have seen the UK obstruct EU decision-making during the euro zone sovereign debt crisis or on the free movement of people.

“Countries have to accept that the UK will never participate in the euro [currency]. Nor will it become member of Schengen [passport-free area]. And it will stay outside of certain EU institutions, such as the European Public Prosecutor's Office,” he said.

In exchange, he added, “they have to listen to our requests when it comes to stronger powers for the monetary union.”

But the EU has red lines, too, Juncker ​told EurActiv: “A good functioning of the internal market should not be harmed [and] every member of the European Union will have to respect the basics freedoms, including the freedom of movement.”

Ahead of national elections in 2015, Cameron promised to give Britons an in/out EU membership referendum if he is re-elected. A recent poll showed 35% British voters would vote to remain in the EU, 32% would leave while 27% are undecided.

The outlook of an ‘out’-vote in the referendum could force the EU to make considerable concessions when re-negotiating with London. But “a referendum perspective should not be used as blackmail,” Juncker told EurActiv.

Experts have argued that such a reform of the EU institutions would require a treaty change. But EU leaders are hesitant to open up this Pandora's Box, fearing ratification problems in one of the 28 EU member states. Juncker, for his part, said he was confident that special arrangements for Britain "would not require treaty change.”

The lead EPP candidate for the European elections visited Brussels in a pit stop on his campaign trail across EU member states. The Luxembourger needs to get elected as Commission president in a vote in the EU Parliament, after the elections. But, crucially, he first needs to be nominated by EU heads of states in the European Council.

In February, German chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed Juncker as the lead candidate for the EPP, which includes her German party, the CDU, as a member.

David Cameron and the UK government haven’t endorsed any candidate so far. Their Conservative party is heavily opposed to the idea of pan-European candidates for the EU executive’s lead position.

But Juncker is the first common candidate to put the UK’s renegotiation demand on this campaign’s political agenda, which could bring him an advantage in getting a British endorsement at a later stage.

‘No enlargement in next five years’

Juncker is the frontrunner of five so-called ‘Spitzenkandidaten’, nominated by pan-European parties, to take on the role of Commission president [Read our LinksDossier].

His other priorities, outlined at yesterday’s event, included jobs and growth, a reform of Europe’s energy policy, finalising the free trade agreement with the United States (TTIP) and bringing the social dimension into the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

“The eurozone should be managed by the Commission and by the Eurogroup,” said Juncker, adding that the latter “should be chaired by a full-time president”.

Many have called for deep restructuring at the European Commission for the coming term (2014-2019). Amongst the proposed reforms is the nomination of a ‘budget tsar’, a Commissioner with extended powers who would oversee portfolios related to economic and financial policy and potentially chair the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers.

“A Commission has to be structured in a different way as far as its internal structure is concerned,” said Juncker. Still, he added, “we have a decision by the European Council that each and every member state should be represented by one commissioner,” which rules out suggestions to downsize the EU executive.

On the issue of enlargement, the Luxembourger took a sharp tone, saying “I’m of the opinion, like so many of my colleagues in the Council, in the Commission, in the Parliament, that there will be no new accessions in the next five years.”

Formal negotiations with Serbia kicked off in January while countries like Turkey, Macedonia or Montenegro have been formal candidate countries for a longer period.

But at December’s European Council, hopes for swift accession agreements were dashed: several EU countries expressed their opposition to accept new members in the club. 

  • 22 May: European Parliament elections and local elections in the United Kingdom
  • 22-25 May: Elections for European Parliament in all 28 EU member states
  • 18 Sept. 2014: Scottish independence referendum
  • May 2015: UK to hold general election
  • 2017: EU membership referendum proposed by David Cameron
External links: 


Barry's picture

Sounds like junker is just trying to get himself another vote, I have no reason to believe he or camoron would do anything in the UK's favour regarding the eussr, we need to get out of it completely.

an european's picture

@ Barry
No it's not for the vote(s)!
Still it's Cameron and the Europen Union and not Ukip lies of (Ca)Moron or Udssr !

“As Commission President, I will set myself five priorities.

1. My first priority will be to put policies that create growth and jobs at the centre of the policy agenda of the next Commission. As a key ingredient for this, we must create a digital single market for consumers and businesses – making use of the great opportunities of digital technologies which know no borders. To do so we will need to have the courage to break down national silos in telecoms regulation, in copyright and data protection legislation, in the management of radio waves and in competition law.

If we do this, we can ensure that European citizens can soon use their mobile phones across Europe without having to pay roaming charges. We can ensure that consumers can access music, movies and sports events on their electronic devices wherever they are in Europe, and regardless of borders. And we can generate 500 billion Euro of additional growth in Europe in the course of the mandate of the next Commission, thereby creating hundreds of thousands new jobs and a vibrant knowledge-based society. I will work on this project from day one of my Commission.

2. As a second priority, I want to reform and reorganise Europe’s energy policy in a new European Energy Union. We need to pool our resources, combine our infrastructures and unite our negotiating power vis-à-vis third countries. We need to diversify our energy sources, and reduce the energy dependency of several of our Member States.

I want to keep our European energy market open to our neighbours. However, if the price for energy from the East becomes too expensive, either in commercial or in political terms, Europe should be able to switch very swiftly to other supply channels. We need to be able to reverse energy flows when necessary. And we need to strengthen the share of renewable energies on our continent. This is not only a matter of a responsible climate change policy. It is at the same time an industrial policy imperative if we still want to have affordable energy at our disposal in the medium term. I therefore want Europe’s Energy Union to become the world’s number one in renewable energies.

3. Third, under my presidency, the Commission will negotiate a reasonable and balanced trade agreement with the United States of America. It is anachronistic that in the 21st century, Europeans and Americans still impose customs duties on each other’s products. These should be swiftly and fully abolished. I also believe that we can go a significant step further in recognising each other’s product standards or working towards transatlantic standards. However, as Commission President, I will also be very clear that I will not sacrifice Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards on the altar of free trade. Notably, the safety of the food we eat and the protection of the personal data of Europeans will be non-negotiable for me as Commission President.

4. A fourth priority for me will be to continue with the reform of our monetary union, and to do so with Europe’s social dimension in mind. I believe that in the next five years, we will have to consolidate and complement the unpre-ceden¬ted measures we have taken during the crisis, to simplify them and to make them socially more legitimate. I see three main areas of change:

a. We have to re-balance the relationship between elected politicians and the European Central Bank in the daily management of the Eurozone. I admire what Mario Draghi has done to save the euro. However, he had to do so in a clearly exceptional situation. The ECB neither wants nor can govern the Eurozone. The Eurozone should instead be managed by the Commission and by the Euro Group, which in my view should be chaired by a full-time President. The responsibility of the Euro Group includes issues related to the exchange rate. We should not forget this in case the euro exchange rate should increase further and become a problem for growth.

b. We should also re-balance the way in which we grant conditional stability support to Eurozone countries in financial difficulties. I propose that in the future, any support and reform programme goes not only through a fiscal sustainability assessment; but at the same time through a social impact assessment. The social effects of structural reforms need to be discussed in public. My party, the EPP, believes in the social market economy. It is not compatible with the social market economy that in a crisis, ship-owners and speculators become even richer, while pensioners no longer know how to pay for their daily needs. In this context, a targeted fiscal capacity at Eurozone level could be developed to work as a shock-absorber if needed.

c. Thirdly, I am convinced that we have to strengthen the external projection of our monetary union. A proposal for a joint representation of the Eurozone in the IMF was already made by the Commission in 1998 – but was never followed up. Today, the Treaty allows for the adoption of such a proposal by qualified majority by Eurozone countries, and no longer by unanimity. I believe it is high time that we move ahead with this proposal and strengthen the Eurozone’s voice in the IMF, and as Commission President, I will take care of this. The euro must not only be stable on the inside, but also have a strong common voice on the global stage.

5. A fifth and last priority for me as Commission President will be to give an answer to the British question. No reasonable politician can ignore the fact that, during the next five years, we will have to find solutions for the political concerns of the United Kingdom. We have to do this if we want to keep the UK within the European Union – which I would like to do as Commission President. As Commission President, I will work for a fair deal with Britain.

A deal that accepts the specificities of the UK in the EU, while allowing the Eurozone to integrate further. The UK will need to understand that in the Eurozone, we need more Europe, not less. On the other hand, the other EU countries will have to accept that the UK will never participate in the euro, even if we may regret this. We have to accept that the UK will not become a member of the Schengen area. And I am also ready to accept that the UK will stay outside new EU institutions such as the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, meant to improve the fight against fraud in the EU, but clearly rejected by the House of Commons and the House of Lords. We have to respect such clear positions of the British Parliament, based on the British “opt out” Protocol. David Cameron has recently written down a number of further key demands in an article published in the Daily Telegraph. As Commission President, I will be ready to talk to him about these demands in a fair and reasonable manner. My red line in such talks would be the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms; and the possibility to have more Europe within the Eurozone to strengthen the single currency shared by so far 18 and soon 19 Member States. But I have the impression that this is as important for Britain as it will be for the next President of the Commission. A deal that accepts the specificities of the UK in the EU.

Tadeusz's picture

The man has admitted to lying in the past as a political expedient and is a lover of deals in smoky rooms in private. Cameron is also as much a liar. Any renegotiated deal will, as boringly usual, be dressed up a a good deal for for Britain a quoted ad naueam by John Major. One of our major concern i a keye tenet of the EU - unfettered movement of people within in the EU. Clearly bollocks for all countries - it requires careful management to ensure the social infrastructure (schools, health etc.) is not overwhelmed. There need to be other incentives for those allowed in to learn the host nation language. Germany used to pay their immigrants a (small) sum of money (deutschmarks!) to learn. How come all of their Gastarbeitern (Turks) were willing to learn? No, the only way id invoke Article 50 and exit the EU and then sort out what relationship we prefer and go for that.

evad666's picture

“Countries have to accept that the UK will never participate in the euro [currency]. " (You are correct on this point) Nor will it become member of Schengen [passport-free area] (Here many believe you are wrong the UK is already operating defacto Shengen border controls and as a result we have more than our fair share of EU and non EU Criminals, Terrorists and Health and Benefit tourists all paid for not by the EU but by the British taxpayer. In addition the European Court of Human Rights actively obstructs sensible border controls.) And it will stay outside of certain EU institutions, such as the European Public Prosecutor's Office,” he said.