As I reported earlier, Number 10 is adjusting its commentary on Jean-Claude Juncker’s bid to become president of the European Commission to include plenty of conditional verbs. David Cameron appears to be giving up the fight, too. At his press conference in Downing Street with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the Prime Minister said:
‘There is an important principle at stake here which is that the accountable elected members of the European Council, the elected heads of state, the elected heads of government, should be the ones who propose who runs the European Commission. It’s a very important principle and I will go on putting forward that principle and opposing this process of having someone put on us by the European Parliament through a fairly strange set of elections – I will go on opposing that right up to the end.
‘There is absolutely no question of changing my view about that. In many ways the question is not for me, I have made clear my view – I think Europe needs reform but I don’t think it needs an effective change in the way Europe works to suddenly decide the European commission is elected through this process of the European Parliament. My view is very clear – I think it is for others to make their view clear if you are for reform then you need to stand up and fight for reform. If you are against transferring power from the European Council to the European Parliament, if you are against that you have to stand up and say so. So I’m very clear where I stand – others will have to make their own decisions and we will see what happens in a week or so time. I’m very clear it would be completely wrong because this is an issue of principle to suddenly turn around and say well it’s alright for this election to lead to a particular person to run the European Commission – I just think that’s wrong, and I will go on thinking it’s wrong right up until the end. Clear answer I think you’ll find, that one.’
That Cameron’s aim now is to keep opposing Juncker right to the end, rather than to succeed in blocking him, suggests that he’s starting to feel a whole lot less confident about the process. Either that, or he’s being surprisingly calculating in order to make Juncker’s failure look all the more spectacular.