Coffee House

Cameron’s EU threats must be plausible; nobody likes a Prime Minister who cries wolf

10 June 2014

Angela Merkel is annoyed that David Cameron seems to be issuing threats to other European leaders in order to get what he wants. At a press conference concluding talks held by the centre-right EU leaders in Harpsund, the German Chancellor reiterated her support for Jean-Claude Juncker, and said:

‘I made myself clear by saying that I am for Jean-Claude Juncker. But when I made that statement in Germany I also made the point that we act in a European spirit. We always do that because otherwise you would never reach a compromise.

‘Thus we cannot just consign to the backburner the question of the European spirit. Threats are not part and parcel of that spirit. That is not part of the way in which we usually proceed.’

Acting in an un-European spirit will hardly damage Cameron’s standing at home. But it’s also exactly what he needs to be doing. He needs to unsettle his European colleagues, and needs to give them the sense that he really means business about renegotiation. Of course, his threats need to be plausible: no-one wants a Prime Minister who cries wolf and is ignored.

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But Cameron has clearly taken a judgement that he can get someone other than Juncker into the Commission presidency. He will make a big noise as he tries to do it, so that he can add it to his list of European achievements along with his veto and the EU budget cut. These achievements, which everyone said he couldn’t do, are important evidence that he will achieve far more in a renegotiation than his critics say he can.

The Prime Minister now needs to pick every fight very carefully indeed. Even though he is racking up a series of victories – ‘they said we’d never manage to do such-and-such-a-thing but we did’ type ones – he is only as good as his last European foray. If he picks a foolish fight, and falls victim to the complacency that can damage him so much on domestic affairs and party management, then he’ll end up with a bunch of ‘powerless in Europe’ headlines.

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  • Full Name

    >”so that he can add it to his list of European achievements along with his veto and the EU budget cut. These achievements, which everyone said he couldn’t do, are important evidence that he will achieve far more in a renegotiation than his critics say he can.”

    I can’t believe I’m reading this Isabelle. You are selling second-hand falsehoods here, unwittingly or otherwise. As Rhoda thankfully points out below.

    1. Budget: Dr. RAE North writes: EU politics: sparking impotent “fury”

    >”In particular, they would be asking him why, after he had grandstanded over containing the 2014 EU budget, following negotiations that dragged into least November, the Commission is back already with a demand for another €4.738 billion (£3.8bn), of which UK taxpayers will have to find about £500 million.”

    >”In the case of Mr Cameron, this country is a net contributor, so it ends up paying for schemes which are most often approved under QMV, in which event he has no direct control and has to permit these raids on the British taxpayer. The only remedy is for the UK to invoke Article 50 and leave the EU.”

    2. Phantom Veto: Cameron “effectively vetoed” no Treaty effectively remember?

    David Milliband:-

    “This is the first veto in history not to stop something. The plans are going right ahead. It was a phantom veto against a phantom threat”.”

  • jamesbarn

    On the 1st November 2014 the right of Parliament to legislate over us in 43 areas, the important ones, will be removed and be made subject to approval. They call it QMV, Qualified Majority Voting.

    Each member State will lose it right of Veto over these areas, so Cameron’s idea of negotiation to recover any areas goes out the window at the same time.

    The following areas of competence will switch from requiring unanimous approval of all member states to qualified majority voting only:

    Initiatives of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Administrative co-operation – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Asylum – Nice: QMV; Lisbon: QMV
    Border controls – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Citizens’ initiative regulations – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Civil protection – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Committee of the Regions – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Common defence policy – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Crime prevention incentives – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Criminal judicial co-operation – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Criminal law – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Culture – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Diplomatic & Consular protection – Nice: Unanimity Lisbon: QMV
    Economic & Social Committee – Nice: QMV Lisbon: QMV
    Emergency international aid – Nice: Unanimity Lisbon: QMV
    Energy – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    EU budget – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Eurojust – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    European Central Bank – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    European Court of Justice – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Europol – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Eurozone external representation – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV

    Foreign Affairs High Representative election – Lisbon: QMV
    Freedom of movement for workers – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Freedom to establish a business – Nice: Unanimity Lisbon QMV
    Freedom, security, justice, co-operation & evaluation – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Funding the Common Foreign & Security Policy – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    General economic interest services – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Humanitarian aid – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Immigration – Nice: QMV; Lisbon: QMV
    Intellectual property – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Organisation of the Council of the EU – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Police co-operation – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    President of the European Council election – Lisbon: QMV
    Response to natural disasters & terrorism – Lisbon: QMV
    Rules concerning the Armaments Agency – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Self-employment access rights – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Social Security Unanimity – Nice: QMV; Lisbon: QMV
    Space – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Sport – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Structural & Cohension Funds – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Tourism – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Transport – Nice: Unanimity; Lisbon: QMV
    Withdrawal of a member state – Lisbon: QMV

    A brief review of the Treaties confirms the Transitional arrangements which allow, only on specific votes, for the Nice Treaty Provisions to apply from 1st November 2014 until March 2017, hence I imagine PM David Cameron’s determination to delay our referendum beyond that date, tying Britain for ever within the non-democratic, totalitarian and now clearly despotic EU.

    For your reference, if anyone interested in the Treaty Articles behind this change, here is the legal bit.…voting-qmv.html

    Now you can see why voting UKIP is vital

    Withdrawal of a member state – Lisbon: QMV this one means that the results of a referendum will be ignored and that is why Cameron is promising one, he knows it is meaningless

    • Denis_Cooper

      This is not correct, as explained in my comments here:

      the last being:

      “To reiterate: I only bother to point out that this is not correct to try to save people from ending up with egg on their faces.”

      I think I may know the source of this misinformation, and you could have read my comments there except the so-called “libertarian” running the site declined to publish them.

    • Denis_Cooper

      My final comment, yesterday morning, still awaiting moderation and therefore not visible to you:

      “It’s not very libertarian to decline to publish a comment showing that the whole of this article is based on a misunderstanding of what the treaties say and that you are spreading a myth.”

  • Will Rees

    Cameron’s threat is credible, which is more than the major 3 UK parties will be if they can’t stop Juncker winning and saying he’s democratically elected, given the election we had. Media will look pretty stupid too

  • Frank

    This is all such a load of bo**ocks. It won’t make a tuppence

    • ButcombeMan

      If Dave did this the Tories would be re-elected with a massive landslide.

      He simply lacks the leadership ability.

  • Bonkim

    Go along with that – you need a feasible alternative in any negotiation rather than simply rejecting what is on offer.

  • global city

    Merkel surely knows that she is dealing with a lightweight tactician when dealing with Cameron.

  • itdoesntaddup

    These tokens are precisely so that Cameron can avoid having to conduct serious negotiations at all. If he can claim he prevented Juncker, he will claim that’s all he needed to do – not that he needs to tackle the EU’s energy and water policy, international treatment of benefits entitlement and migration, fisheries, CAP, working time directive, etc., etc.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Cameron has no veto over who the European Council nominates to become the new President of the EU Commission, as that decision is now made by qualified majority voting, QMV, but I hope that Cameron does manage to assemble a blocking minority to stop Juncker being nominated simply because he is being pushed by jumped-up members of the EU Parliament.

    However there would be a world of difference between Cameron being able to get enough of the other EU countries to agree with him that Juncker should not become President of the Commission, and Cameron being able to get all 27 of the other EU countries to agree with him that the fundamental commitment to a process of ever closer union should be removed from the EU treaties.

    Which is what Cameron has repeatedly said he wants, most recently on May 11th on the Andrew Marr show:

    “We achieve those negotiation changes. Perhaps the most important is getting
    Britain out of the clause that says the European Union must be committed to an
    ever closer union.”

    “I don’t accept that. I don’t think the British people want to accept that.”

    • global city

      This is all a danse macabre. The tories and the rest of the establishment are simply marking time. They have no intention of renegotiating anything with their peers at the top of the European project

    • Bonkim

      Unlikely Europe will stop its path to closer integration or renegotiating fundamental treaty clauses, Britain will have to swallow the bitter truth and get out.

  • Conway

    But Cameron has clearly taken a judgement that he can get someone other
    than Juncker into the Commission presidency. He will make a big noise as
    he tries to do it, so that he can add it to his list of European
    achievements along with his veto and the EU budget cut.
    ” But, like his veto and the EU budget cut (which turned out to be nothing of the kind since they did what they wanted anyway and we still ended up paying more money) it will be a lot of noise that achieves nothing. Even if Juncker isn’t appointed, some other federalist who is totally committed to the cause of ever closer union (ie the formation of a United States of Europe) will get the job and the juggernaut will roll on as before.

  • Denis_Cooper

    You’ve forgotten to mention Cameron’s laughable claim that he had “repatriated the bailout power”, when there was never any such power to be repatriated and in reality he given Merkel a treaty change she wanted without even asking for any other treaty changes in return.

    As the Tory MP Mark Reckless put it to him on October 24th 2011:

    “The Prime Minister tells The Daily Telegraph today that we should use any
    treaty change to shore up the euro to get powers over employment and social
    policy back, yet on 25 March, he agreed to precisely such a treaty change, but
    did not ask for anything in return.”

    He was referring to the EU treaty change agreed through European Council Decision 2011/199/EU of March 25th 2011:

    which few people even know about because of a virtually complete media blackout, but which in earlier Tory parlance would have provided that “golden opportunity” for Cameron to demand other treaty changes in return.

  • Smithersjones2013

    I don’t know who is howling at the moon the most. Cameron for all this fantasy renegotiation he keeps banging on about whilst he applauds the further political integration of the Eurozone and meekly gives away various vetoes without even a thought to the referendum lock or Hardman for actually believing that Cameron has done anything that has further secured our Parliament’s sovereignty and has in anyway impressed Eurosceptics.

    Either way as Boris Johnson and Dan Hannan both point out. It doesn’t matter who gets the Commission Presidency they will be dripping in Europhilia. The only difference will be to the level of honesty and candidness to which the candidate chosen will peddle their Europhilia. We know Juncker is blunt and to the point. Is that such a bad thing? Better the devil you know…….

    • Makroon

      We know no such thing. Juncker is an aparatchik-manipulator. He would never have lasted so long and climbed so high, with his meagre talents and background, if he was “blunt and to the point”.

  • Kitty MLB

    You have no idea what Cameron is for. He most certainly didn’t support the EU
    before becoming Prime Minister and now is being diplomatic which you must be with responsibility. And why can he not view his wishes and is anyone saying the Prime Minister is dishonest with his requests and that the other European leaders who
    agree with him and don’t want a United states of Europe are also being dishonest.
    Mrs Merkel is being a bully, and they need standing up to.
    This should be a warning to Cameron and other countries and they need to stand their ground.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Well as it goes its Cameron who wants the choice of EU Commission President to be decided by a back room stitch up by Leaders against the wishes of a democratically elected EU Parliament whereas Merkel is purely folllowing the lead of the majority (the EPP and the Socialists) in the EU Parliament.

      • Andy

        I suggest you read the treaty. The EU Commission President is an appointment in the gift of the Council of Ministers. What is happening is the EU Parliament is trying to grab the power to appoint the President itself. It is against the spirit and the letter of the treaty. They should be told to get stuffed.

        • Sentinel

          The European Council can only propose a candidate; the EU Parliament decides whether the candidate becomes President of the Commission: see Art 17(7) TEU.

          • Andy

            7. Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.

            As you can see it says ‘Taking into account’ . . . ‘appropriate consultations’. . . ‘the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament. . . ‘. It does not say, mean nor imply that the European Parliament can impose who they like as President of the Commission. In fact it implies exactly the opposite. In other words the office is in the gift of the Council of Ministers, but the appointment has to be ‘ratified’ by Parliament as in the USA system.

            • fundamentallyflawed

              The question is – why do we need a parliament of Europe and a president at all?

              • Andy

                We don’t. Both are equally useless.

    • Makroon

      Cameron could hypothetically turn this situation to his advantage by meekly withdrawing his objection, and giving Merkel her grand victory (in German eyes) – with the explicit understanding that she will back his reform agenda.
      Juncker, after all, is a gloified secretary.
      One small problem; this is a woman never to be trusted.

    • ButcombeMan

      “You have no idea what Cameron is for”


      I see no evidence that Cameron believes in anything very much

      • Kitty MLB

        We don’t vote for them for their ideologies…

        • ButcombeMan

          Speak for yourself.

          I would not vote for any politician who did not share some of my core beliefs.

  • Aberrant_Apostrophe

    Has anyone else noticed the hypocrisy of Dr. Merkel? She complains bitterly in public that Cameron has threatened to withdraw from the EU if Herr Juncker is appointed, but sees nothing wrong with bullying everyone else into accepting her choice.

    • Makroon

      It’s called realpolitik, nothing to do with such quaint notions as hypocrisy.
      Cameron spun it as him saying that it would be much harder for UK to stay in with Juncker in place. Bad translation ? misunderstanding ? deliberate misrepresentation ? Who knows ?

  • you_kid

    The failure to publicly declare what Cameron stands for, only what he is against, will draw in large sections of support that previously favoured UKIP.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    He did not veto anything. The budget cut hasn’t happened, they have their hands in our pocket again right now. In any case fiddling round the edges is not what’s required, it is to set out what we need, and insist on it. If we do not get it we must be prepared to pull the plug, because we must have democracy, we must have ultimate sovereignty. If he ‘negotiates’ with a flexible list of wants and a personal wish to stay in no matter what, he won’t get much.

    Oh, confrontation over which apparatchik gets the top spot is not productive. It pisses people off to no purpose, because it doesn’t matter who gets to be president, there are only useless apparatchiks on the list.

    • ButcombeMan

      “If he ‘negotiates’ with a flexible list of wants and a personal wish to stay in no matter what, he won’t get much”

      Exactly, your finger right on Cameron’s jugular. That is it seems to me his clear intention which is why I cannot support the Conservative Party

      Red Lines and a declaration that we go down the Article 50 route unless we get them. Give Europe the ball and let them chew the fat.

      (We never hear Cameron mention Article 50 which is why I distrust him so).

      • Full Name

        We NEVER hear the key words from our corrupt government:-

        Article 50 TEU Lisbon Treaty
        EEA = European Economic Area minus the EU = Political Ever Closer Union (1957).

  • Hexhamgeezer

    But isn’t dave ‘building alliances’? Wasn’t an onside Frau M a part of his ‘strategy’? Is Frau M’s federalist candidate that much worse than dave’s? What is this ‘compromise’ of which she speaks? Federalism at 30 mph instead of 33 ?( sorry 48.28kph instead of 53.108kph?) She’s already told us that reform is not a priority.

    Can we have a list of these achievements btw including how much less the UK is paying to keep the federalist roadshow going.

    • Hello

      Frau M is onside, she’s just trying to bring Germany with her.

      Just a comment on style:

      I’d have left the decimal places out of those KM conversions. Realising that you must have stopped and used a calculator (or even worse, “google, whats 30 miles in KM?”) to work those out rather destroys the flow,and gives the impression that you’re trying to be cleverer than you are. Toodles.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        The ‘style’, such as it is, (i.e. using the decimal points) was quite deliberate. Outlining small fractions in Euro measurement was not intended as a demonstration of fake cleverness but making the point that we are talking small European beer despite dave’s cheerleaders here claiming that it matters one iota who gets the job.


        • Hello

          “Outlining small fractions in Euro measurement was not intended as a demonstration of fake cleverness but making the point that we are talking small European beer despite dave’s cheerleaders here claiming that it matters one iota who gets the job”

          Like I said.

      • Makroon

        I think not.
        Merkel is no “iron lady”, she is a ditherer and a trimmer, always being swayed by the boys club in the Bundestag. That makes her a most unreliable “ally”.
        It became clear at the time of Cameron’s famous veto (when Merkel just sat quietly for the whole session), that German politicians see the EU as their racket, (“Europe is now speaking German”).
        They are happy with their emollient placeman Juncker, because he will do what they say – a few “reforms” which benefit German industry, but nothing drastic.
        Why would they want to fundamentally change such a fine racket ?
        There might be the odd carping from the Dutch or the Scandinavians, but the rest will go along with it. France can see where this is leading, but hog-tied by their desperation to preserve “the French way of life”, there is nothing they can do.

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