The man tipped to become Britain’s next EU Commissioner in Brussels, replacing Jonathan Hill, spoke to euractiv.fr in an exclusive interview before the UK’s referendum on EU membership. This is a translated version of the interview, originally given in French.
Sir Julian King was appointed as the UK’s ambassador to France in February this year. He is well versed in European affairs, having served as head of cabinet for both Peter Mandelson and Catherine Ashton during their time as European Commissioners.
On Tuesday (5 July) he was tipped to be David Cameron’s choice to succeed Jonathan Hill as the United Kingdom’s European Commissioner.
King spoke to Aline Robert, the Editor-in-Chief of EURACTIV France, in April, two months before the UK referendum on EU membership. Below is a selection from that interview, which we can now offer in King’s native English.
Why do you believe the United Kingdom should stay in the European Union?
We took the very clear position that the UK should stay in the European Union, because we see many advantages in EU membership. There are the economic advantages: Europe is our biggest export market. And there is the security challenge. Terrorists do not distinguish between countries, so we are better protected inside the EU, fighting the threat together.
On the question of security, the management of the border at Calais shows that much cooperation can be achieved with bilateral agreements, outside the European framework.
We have a very close cooperation with France on security and the military. But even bilateral relations are often organised with NATO or the European Union. These structures enable us to work better together. We do not want to undo these ties. The current framework for the exchange of information on suspicious individuals, for example, depends on a European agreement.
What will happen to Calais once the United Kingdom leaves the EU?
Calais is a special case. It is a question that is closely followed on both sides of the English Channel. Perhaps even more so in France. We completely support the policy of the French government, and for now, the agreement is perfectly clear that the border should be managed in France.
What impact did the Dutch referendum on the Ukraine Association Agreement have on UK voters? Some saw this agreement as opening the question of Ukraine’s accession to the European project.
Any event can be interpreted as having an effect on the referendum on EU membership. But this is a separate question. The question that was asked in the Netherlands was “do you agree with the Association Agreement signed with Ukraine”. We support this agreement.
What do you think of the European Commission’s position on Brexit, the fact that it stayed quiet during the debate?
Their position is their own choice. It is up to them to decide.
In France, many politicians were in favour of Brexit…
I have not seen a political party take an official line on the matter. What individual politicians do is their own look-out.
The EU member states are currently debating the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union. What does the United Kingdom think of this?
The plan deserves to be given a detailed outline. But the members of the eurozone are most closely affected. We support the construction of the eurozone, we do not seek to veto or block its evolution, because it is also our market.
In the past, particularly under Tony Blair, the United Kingdom tried to stay at the centre of developments in the eurozone, even if it sometimes prevented others from going further, more quickly. What has changed since then is that we now support the evolution of the eurozone without trying to hold it back or to dictate anything at all.
The question of taxation was also an issue in the Brexit debate. Some hedge fund managers campaigned to leave the EU because they found the EU rules on tax transparency unacceptably strict.
That’s true, but we also have a prime minister who has campaigned to expose tax havens. We organised a meeting of the G8 on 12 May to discuss the fight against corruption and possible international measures to eliminate tax havens. The United Kingdom is firmly committed to this fight.