All those who believe in democracy can breathe a sigh of relief this week as Juncker is handed the job as president of the European Commission. David Cameron’s “principled” objection to Juncker’s position was to deny the alteration in the Lisbon treaty which allowed the people of Europe to decide who should be the Commission president. Juncker was selected by the winning party in the recent European elections to be their presidential candidate and therefore has the democratic mandate for the job. Conversely David Cameron believes that it is the right of national leaders, elected only by their domestic electorates, to decide who leads the European Union. This shameless attack on democratic reform has been thwarted. The precedent has now been set: the people of Europe will decide the president of the European Commission through the pan European elections.
However, whilst democracy has triumphed and Cameron defeated, Britain is plunged into uncertainty. Cameron’s weakness in his negotiation strategy, by being on the wrong side of the winning argument, has lead him to be isolated from those who really count; the national leaders, especially Merkel. Britain is now seen as a country which rocks the boat and is unprepared to allow the European Union to follow its desired path. Whilst many free market economies in Northern Europe want Britain to remain in the EU, especially Germany, they are losing patience with a country who seems constantly to try and block reform.
“Repatriation Conservatives” are concerned that the failure of Cameron to negotiate with European leaders on a compromise candidate demonstrates his inability to renegotiate a new deal for Britain. Cameron’s plan to win enough concessions from national leaders to be able to call for Britain to remain in the EU in a 2017 referendum looks increasingly unlikely. Failure to do so could result in the Tory party siding with UKIP and endorsing EU exit in the referendum. By isolating Britain over Juncker Cameron has isolated Britain in any future renegotiation. The more Britain is seen as a nuisance the less endeared leaders are to help Britain to stay and the more comfortable they are to see us leave.
If Cameron had not removed his Tory MEPs from Juncker’s grouping, the EPP, he could have argued for a different EPP candidate more to his likening from within. Instead, outside of the EPP, he has had to argue against the principle of European democracy. This has failed. The result of Cameron’s tactless strategy is he stands isolated amongst national leaders and with Britain moving towards EU exit. Cameron will be remembered for accomplishing what he tried to stop; an overtly Eurosceptic Conservative party as the parties “renegotiation” strategy fails.
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