The appointment today of palaeo-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU Commission President, in the face of vocal resistance by David Cameron, brought immediate claims that Britain was on its way out of the EU. e.g. Daniel Hannan:
As recently as ten days ago, I thought that a compromise would be found. Surely the other members wouldn’t actively drive Britain to exit, would they? In the event, they could hardly have been clearer. First, the new Finnish prime minister hectored us, telling us to ‘smell the coffee’ and realise how dependent we were on the EU, whatever form it took. Then Angela Merkel, coming out of the meeting, gave a press conference in which she said that ever-closer union must apply to all 28 member states, that ‘reform’ in her mind applied to economic liberalisation, not to any repatriation of powers, and that the process whereby European political parties nominated the Commission President, as if the EU were a single federal electorate, would henceforth be normal.
To talk now of a looser EU, a more comfortable EU, an EU in which powers can be returned to the national capitals, is preposterous. A British leader who tried to take such a line would be laughed out of office. The EU has just entrusted its political direction to a man who has spent his entire life campaigning – perfectly honestly, to be fair to him – for a United States of Europe. Among other things, he wants a common EU citizenship with reciprocal voting rights in national elections; a pan-European minimum wage; a unified EU diplomatic corps; a federal police agency; and EU-wide taxation. And this is the man whom 26 out of 28 governments have just voted to appoint.
I must say that I’ve been wondering why Cameron went ahead with a rearguard action that was bound to leave him humiliated. The answer, maybe, is that it was all being done for home consumption:
David Cameron compared himself to Margaret Thatcher on Friday and said he was fighting similar “battles” with the European Union.
Mr Cameron evoked the memory of Baroness Thatcher’s fights with Brussels during the Eighties and said he had gone further than her by securing an EU budget cut last year.
It rather looks as if Cameron was sufficiently jolted by UKIP’s EU election win last month to decide he needed to be seen to be “standing up to Europe,” in order to win back UKIP voters.
But if anything, he’s really only demonstrated that there’s no way Britain can renegotiate the terms of its EU membership. The “colleagues” will just vote him down. It’s going to be Get Out, or Stay (and Abide By The Club Rules).
And it seems that the “colleagues” may well now be wanting to see the back of Britain, and that many of them have more or less written it off. In which case there won’t just be UKIP pressure to leave, but also EU pressure as well. The “colleagues” are clearly dead set on creating an United States of Europe, with or without Britain.
But isn’t there mounting euroscepticism within the EU? Didn’t Marine Le Pen’s Front National score a big victory in the same EU elections that UKIP won in Britain. Doesn’t François Hollande face the same problems in France as Cameron in Britain? Are the “colleagues” really going to be able to push through a federal Europe in the face of mounting voter resistance, and a sluggish EU economy now experiencing deflation?
Or is it that, whatever happens, the European political class will remain determined to push forward the ‘project’? If only because they have no other.
P.S. H/T Dick Puddlecote for this:
“His alcohol consumption has been raised by a number of leaders since the parliamentary elections [last month],” said an EU diplomat.
There were also reports that Juncker chain-smoked through a meeting of European People’s party leaders in the Flanders town of Kortrijk on Thursday before the Ypres summit dedicated to marking the centenary of the start of the first world war.
EU diplomats suggested his campaign team have been examining changing the rules of the European commission’s Berlaymont headquarters to allow Juncker to smoke in the president’s suite of offices.