What happens if, as reports suggest today, David Cameron fails in his bid to block Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission? It will make the Prime Minister look weak. It will make his renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with Europe and his call for reform of the European Union as a whole much more difficult. These are serious wounds. But the Prime Minister may at least relax that he’s not going to face an uprising in Westminster. Eurosceptic MPs have appreciated his stand on this issue, and are – by and large – committed to fighting for general election victory. They’ll think about other fights after that general election.
One MP tells me that the biggest consequence in Westminster this side of 2015 would be a demand for genuine eurosceptics being appointed to the Prime Minister’s renegotiation team. Another says it will increase pressure on the Prime Minister to appoint as Britain’s next European Commissioner a genuine eurosceptic such as Peter Lilley or Owen Paterson, rather than someone who would be convenient such as Andrew Lansley. That is unlikely, as the European Parliament would see these two men as perfect candidates for a show of muscle over the Commission.
It’s clear that the trouble that Juncker getting the prize he’s fixed his eyes on won’t really emerge until after the 2015 general election. Given David Cameron’s usual approach to schisms in his party, that’s far away enough for him not to worry.