Coffee House

Jeremy Hunt: Better to be isolated and right in Europe

24 June 2014

Is it a good thing that David Cameron now appears isolated in Europe as he continues to dig a hole that Jean-Claude Juncker almost certainly won’t fall into? Jeremy Hunt tried to argue on the Today programme this morning that it was, saying that people would respect an isolated Prime Minister who was prepared to make the right argument. He said:

‘Sometimes leadership is lonely, but if it is the right thing to do for Britain, I’m glad that we have got a strong prime minister who’s prepared to take those steps, even if it means that he is isolated from time-to-time, I think people in Europe will respect the person who tells the truth; that Europe needs to be reformed, it can’t carry on the way it’s doing, it’s unacceptable to put in place who someone who doesn’t stand for reform and I’m very proud that we have a prime minister who’s prepared to do that, however difficult it is, however isolated.’

Cameron has certainly earned the respect of his party, even those Better Off Out-ers who would like Juncker to take the presidency as he will only reinforce their case for a Brexit. But the question is whether he has isolated himself in the short-term only to be proved right in the long run, or whether he has exhausted such stores of political capital that he’s made the next few years more difficult for himself. The leaked tapes of Polish politicians criticising his strategy suggest that the Juncker episode isn’t the only way Cameron has damaged his standing in Europe, though. They seem to think he isn’t adept at negotiating his way around Europe in general. The possibility that he may have mis-read signals from Angela Merkel for a second time will not help this impression. Even if he is isolating himself in a noble way over Juncker, he must be wary of accidentally isolating himself in other ways.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • beenzrgud

    Once the UK is out and people like Juncker get their way the Germans will be the ones to suffer. The southern states will effectively be handed Germanys credit card, and history shows they really can’t resist the urge to spend spend spend. With the UK out of the picture its not even like the Germans will have half a chance of stopping it either. They will be overruled at every turn. Once this process becomes established I don’t see the EU surviving much longer, which is probably for the best.

  • Conway

    Surely that should read “Better to be isolated and right out of the EU” (hint Europe is a continent)? Not that we would be isolated with the rest of the world to trade with, of course.

  • Ian Walker

    So does he now turn round, a few months out from the election campaign proper, and drop the renegotiation part of his pledge? Try and turn those new northern ‘kippers into anti-EU Tories?

    Caving in would be a disaster, internationally and domestically. He’s dared the EU to elect a federalist and Merkel et al think he’s bluffing, but as a big economy and net importer of gods and labour, he’s got a strong hand. The way to play that is to sucker the opposition into gambling the lot, then go all in and clean up.

    • Conway

      Only one problem with that; Cameron wants to stay in. We know it, and more to the point the rest of the EUcrats know it, too.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Here from 1992, still available on the EU website, is the Treaty on European Union which was agreed by the Tory John Major at Maastricht, who described the outcome of that meeting as “Game set and match for Britain”, and approved by almost all of the Tory MPs at the time:

    And here is Article 158 in that treaty, which first involved the EU Parliament in the appointment of the EU Commission and its President instead of that being the sole prerogative of the member state governments as it was previously, and moreover effectively granted the EU Parliament a veto:

    “Article 158

    1. The members of the Commission shall be appointed, in accordance with the procedure referred to in paragraph 2, for a period of five years, subject, if need be, to Article 144.

    Their term of office shall be renewable.

    2. The governments of the Member States shall nominate by common accord, after consulting the European Parliament, the person they intend to appoint as President of the Commission.

    The governments of the Member States shall, in consultation with the nominee for President, nominate the other persons whom they intend to appoint as members of the Commission.

    The President and the other members of the Commission thus nominated shall be subject as a body to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. After approval by the European Parliament, the President and the other members of the Commission shall be appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States.

    3. Paragraphs 1 and 2 shall be applied for the first time to the President and the other members of the Commission whose term of office begins on 7 January 1995.

    The President and the other members of the Commission whose term of office begins on 7 January 1993 shall be appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States. Their term of office shall expire on 6 January 1995.”

    Note paragraph 3: the EU Parliament would be involved “for the first time” for the appointments with terms beginning on 7 January 1995, in the meantime for those beginning on 7 January 1993 the previous procedure would be used, that is to say the member state governments would decide without involving the EU Parliament, as had always been the case back to 1957.

  • goatmince

    Let’s summerise this kerfuffle once and for all:

    Cameron wishes to ‘push reform’.
    Now a President of the Commission is to be chosen by a democratically elected EU Parliament not an ‘undemocratic’ set of Council members. Yet Cameron himself opposes that reform. The dumbo mumbo jumbo posturing could not get any worse.

    It’s obvious to any five year old: this is a classic case of diversion from the fact that Cameron is a loser – Jeremey is to join him? I would not object to that for one moment.

  • fundamentallyflawed

    We have been repeatedly told that we need to be in the “heart of Europe” to make changes to our benefit. Since this argument is now failing the new argument is there is power in isolation despite that this will mean that we can have no position to negotiate or to force our view. Following on from the yesterdays Polish leaked tapes the rest of Europe do not share this view. The weaker countries undoubtedly welcome the supposed security that being part of a bigger union brings, but the question is do we really need them?

  • P_S_W

    Quite frankly, this whole episode will do Cameron’s work for him and Ukip.
    Political capital? Who cares? He wants reform and a reformist EU President. If it is proven that the reform agenda is not forthcoming and that Cameron ends up isolated in Europe then I suspect the Out campaign in the referendum (should we have one) would lead to a landslide victory without breaking sweat.

  • Frank

    “Cameron has certainly earned the respect of his party” really? If that is true, then his parliamentary party is even more gormless that I thought.

    • Conway

      He certainly doesn’t seem to have earned the respect of his party members; they’ve been abandoning him in droves.

  • FlippityGibbit

    “Jeremy Hunt: Better to be isolated and right in Europe.” Sorry Jerry me old fruit, now I can understand why you screwed up in the NHS. What you should have said was “Better to be isolated and right OUT of Europe!” The good news is that despite rather “fruity language” the Poles seem to have a very accurate grasp on the quality of our political leadership and that we will LEAVE the EU.

    Come on boy, you can do better than that! Pull your finger out. It’s catching at the elbow!

  • realfish

    ‘….The leaked tapes of Polish politicians criticising his strategy suggest that the Juncker episode isn’t the only way Cameron has damaged his standing in Europe, though.’
    Yes. Apparently Cameron had the temerity to tell the EU to stuff its demands for more money when people all over Europe were struggling with a debt crisis. And Cameron’s disapproval of EU workers coming to the UK, claiming child benefit (at UK rates) and sending it home to Poland or Romania was an appalling error of judgement on his part.
    How dare Cameron try to stop the gravy train.

  • Frank

    Jeremy Hunt is such a moron that he must embarrass even David Cameron.

  • Kitty MLB

    Oh just wait for the plodding Pavlov dogs to come here and produce the same
    hackneyed criticisms that they do in the usual quotidian fashion.. bores one to the
    back teeth…..Yawn.. Yawn !
    As Margaret Thatcher said, you cannot lead from a crowd, and if they are against him
    it proves to David Cameron how undemocratic the EU is and he is right to disapprove
    of this Juncker and must stand his ground. Why David Cameron, the elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom have to be seen as a rabble rouser for representing
    his individual country.

    • telemachus

      We need to stand together with particularly the East European Countries against the Russian Bear

      • Aberrant_Apostrophe

        It would be better if the EU stopped prodding it with a stick.

        • telemachus

          Makes no odds
          Russia has its eyes on its “rightful” empire
          We must stick together to thwart them

  • allymax bruce

    Isabel, Jeremy Hunt, (in reply to Professor Dame Sue Bailey’s statement, that ‘the Tories cuts to mental health services was a car-crash policy’), also said on Radio4 this morning that he was ‘proud to be implementing this policy’ !
    Isabel, do Westminster politicians live on another planet; or, are they purposely being obtuse?

    • Frank

      No, Jeremy Hunt is just very thick, he is the tory equivalent to Rachel Reeves.

      • realfish

        No I think he is doing a good job, much better than I expected. And surprisingly many in the NHS agree (not the NHS fundamentalists, I admit).
        What has differentiated Hunt is his mantra that the NHS is there to serve the patients – not themselves.
        BTW. Listening carefully to that interview this morning, I found is troubling, sinister, even, that the BBC had gone to the lengths of spending public money on FOI requests to find out how many visits Hunt was making to hospitals (remember the BBC, hypocritically, do not respond to FOI requests made of themselves). Was there some collusion between the BBC with Bailey, who suggested that Hunt should get out more? It all seemed strangely choreographed. It’s troubling that the BBC should be checking on the movements of a minister simply for the purposes of making mischief.

        • The Masked Marvel

          It’s what they do.

    • P_S_W

      Nope, they just have a different interpretation to Sue Bailey. That is allowed, you know. She isn’t always right just because she’s a Prof, Dame or both in the same way that Hunt isn’t always right because he’s an MP or Secretary of State.

  • Blindsideflanker

    “whether he has exhausted such stores of political capital”

    What political capital? When has it ever bought us anything? This mythical political capital is just something to keep us in line, ‘Ooooo you’ve got to build up your political capital we are told’ so enduring all the cr3p the EU throws at us, then when we want something, we think Ah we’ll spend a bit of our political capital, only to find it doesn’t amount to anything.

    • realfish

      The thing is Europeans are different and they don’t like us.

      Political capital amongst European politicians is the capital gained by back-handers, sleazy deals, those ubiquitous all night negotiations where the unacceptable become acceptable, bought and sold with favours and promises. A Europe where everyone knows that Junkers would be a disaster, but a little more ‘investment’ here a bond or two there, a the promise of and appointment and an EU pension, oils the wheels. That’s European political capital.

      As Margaret might say, ‘They are not like us’

      EDITED TO SAY: But there are signs that the corrupt tentacles of the EU are spreading this way…isn’t that right Mr Kinnoch, Mr Clegg et al

      • Blindsideflanker

        Or else this mythical political capital only appears to amount to something when what you want happens to coincide with what the EU wants.

      • Wessex Man

        I prefer the words of Winston S Churchill.

        “We are part of Europe but not of it, we are linked but not compomised. We are associated but not absorbed.

        If Britain must choose between Europe and the Open Sea, she must always choose the Open Sea!”

        • David John Tough

          Rubbish in 1940 Churchill wanted full political union with Fra ce

        • Makroon

          Churchill was right, but:
          1) we don’t have to choose.
          2) UKIP want us to say “No” to both Europe and the “open seas”.

    • Conway

      Yes, like the rebate Blair gave up for reform of the (still unreformed) CAP. We have no influence in the EU whatsoever. Better off out.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Britain has always been historically isolated from Europe. It goes, literally, with the territory and many of our forebears spent copious amounts of blood and treasure to keep us isolated from a succession of barmy European dictators and tyrannies. Surrendering to the latest variant and trying to pretend we are garrulous pavement café sophisticates pretending our intellectual freedom whilst favouring top down restrictive government from excitable foreigners and oodles of officialdom was and is barmy.

    It’ll never be right. And to those who love it I suggest in the spirit of Sikorski that they just f**k off and live there whilst freedom of movement is still on the cards.

    • Makroon

      Nice comment, (but it does rather ignore our own glaring deficiencies).
      And to return to the adventurous spirit of yore, we would need to drop the growing xenophobia and cultivate a fascination with far-flung corners of the globe.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Dave isolated in Europe? Well he’s used to it here.

  • toco10

    As we will leave the EU unless it agrees to the UK’s agenda on migrants,punitive taxes aimed almost entirely at the City and the encroachment of EU laws to the detriment of our democratic rights it really doesn’t matter one way or the other what EU jobsworths think of us.Imagine the savings in EU contributions,not having EU migrants on benefits,education and health budgets to name but three areas of significant financial burden and the huge number of job opportunities we create by the return of EU workers to either their own countries or others in what will be left of the failing and dysfunctional EU.

  • arnoldo87

    ” They seem to think he isn’t adept at negotiating his way around Europe in general.”

    This comment is the essence of what is wrong with Europe. Cameron is our elected Prime Minister and yet he apparently has to be good at negotiating with other leaders who have been elected by different populations with different priorities before he can protect our interests.

    It’s all far too remote and autocratic, and is a negation of democracy.

  • RavenRandom

    Cameron has proved that the Federalist agenda cares nothing for the wishes of one of the major states, or indeed for the democratic will, most recently expressed in the European elections. Sadly this is a further demonstration of why we should leave this anti-democratic would be monolith.

    • telemachus

      The way forward is an integrated whole
      The actual challenge is making the integrated whole democratic
      Where I live there used to be a Celtic tribe before the Romans but this tribe could not defend itself and could not develop
      The little englanders have a romantic notion of something that probably never was

      • Colonel Mustard

        The Kaiser once referred to the BEF as a “contemptible little army”. The veterans thereafter called themselves the Old Contemptibles.

        • telemachus

          And that is precisely why we never must let such conflagrations happen again
          This is why Germany was bound in to the other five and now the twenty eight
          We must not go back

          • Colonel Mustard

            It’s not a case of “going back”. It’s a case of resisting the future they have planned for us without our consent.

            • telemachus

              Again I say
              The issue was to prevent Germany from returning to the pursuit of an autonomous national strategy, both because it could not resist the Soviet forces to the east by itself and, more important, because the West could not tolerate the re-emergence of divisive and dangerous power politics in Europe. The key was binding Germany to the rest of Europe militarily and economically. Put another way, the key was to make certain that German and French interests coincided, since tension between France and Germany had been one of the triggers of prior wars since 1871. Obviously, this also included other Western European countries, but it was Germany’s relationship with France that was most important.
              Putin has reinforced the logic

              • Colonel Mustard

                Binding France and Germany by creating a variant of the Soviet Union instead was never going to be a good idea.

      • RavenRandom

        I assume my post has the most up votes currently, hence your remora like attachment. Aside from that even you must realise there have been many attempts to democratise the European Union. They all failed. At some point you have to say the institution is unreformable. Then you walk away.
        Bottom line, Britain, a majority of all party supporters, except perhaps the Lib Dems, does not want to be part of a Federal Europe.

        • telemachus

          One of the reasons they failed is that the UK has never engaged sufficiently to promote engagement

          • RavenRandom

            No you’re wrong Tele. It’s more fundamental. Many European nations want integration, even a form of Federalism. We want a free market and only that. That’s why we never reach resolution.

            • telemachus

              You want that
              Reasonable folk want a democratic United States of Europe
              It is not beyond our wit to create that

              • RavenRandom

                Tele, it’s fine that you want that. All the polls show no desire for further integration and a significant number want to leave the EU. You are just simply factually wrong on this one.

                • telemachus

                  They are mesmerised by the current hype from UKIP appealing to base instincts
                  Folks want prosperity and peace more than anything else
                  A strong integrated Europe will deliver that

                • RavenRandom

                  No they’re not. There is simple no appetite in the UK for a United States of Europe, not in the Labour Party, not in the Conservatives, or UKIP; I imagine even the Lib Dems are having a rethink. Nothing base about wanting to be a free market trading nation that controls its only destiny.

              • Colonel Mustard

                It is not a credible notion for you, an extremist admirer of Stalin with a taste for totalitarianism, to determine what is reasonable and what is not.

              • arnoldo87

                Democracy works best when the elected politicians make direct decisions for, and are directly accountable to, their constituents.

                It is possible for a decision to be made by elected European politicians that affects life in Britain in the opposite direction to the policy of their elected national government.

                I don’t think “reasonable folk” do want that.

                • telemachus

                  Just like it is possible for the Westminster parliament to make decisions in the opposite direction to folks from Yorkshire
                  Or England as a whole
                  The point is if we want the greater good for us all we all need to make compromises

                • arnoldo87

                  Yes – that’s a valid comparison, but the difference is in the acceptability of the higher body, and that depends on how far afield you are prepared to go to accept being overruled.

                  So, folk in Yorkshire would probably accept a Westminster government veto of their county policy because of the cohesion of the greater nation, and the absolute supremacy of Parliament.

                  But British people, by and large will not accept a veto by the EU body because it is our supreme body that is being usurped by people who, as a nation, we hardly know (and that includes our own MEP’s).

      • Aberrant_Apostrophe

        Integration? How did that work out in the former Yugoslavia, which had to split up to prevent them killing each other? How is it working out in Ukraine, where the EU’s meddling has fomented nationalist turmoil and led a several hundred deaths?

        • telemachus

          This is All Christendom
          And times have moved on both in Europe and the World
          WE need a strong Europe to stand up to the behemoth of China
          And Putin

          • Aberrant_Apostrophe

            Who are these WE you keep babbling about? Are they only in your mind or do they exist in reality? I notice you didn’t actually disagree my point about integration causing more problems than it solves. Oh, and as for ‘Christendom’, what about the millions of long-standing Muslims in Europe, not to mention the more recent arrivals of other faiths, who, incidentally, are one of the main reasons for the growing unrest in many European countries?

            • telemachus

              If I do answer your original post, if Ukraine had been bound in to the EU long ago then the Crimea would now be an EU asset

              • Wessex Man

                I hope that you all now realise that it is pointless trying to reason with a foul lying slimy mouthpiece of the extreme left, let’s all make a pact the from now we ignore this nasty piece of work.

      • Wessex Man

        Have you been inbiding of some Druid drink again?

      • commenteer

        The little Europeans have a romantic notion of something that never can be. So?

      • Holly

        You do realise that this ‘romantic notion ‘we proud to be little Englanders’ have is not hundreds of years ago, it is just seventeen years ago.
        You make it sound like we yearn for the days before the industrial revolution, when that is simply NOT true.

        Plod on there Telemachus…Plod on.

      • Liberty

        Democracy does not have deep roots in Europe. Too many in power don’t like it, it prevents them doing ‘what’s right’ for the plebs. Its for their own good, you understand. Would suit you well, why not go and live there?

  • Ray Veysey

    Forget the PM, he is only being allowed to continue this farce of a premiership by the craven cowards in the HoP. Don’t blame him blame the guys who could stop it and don’t. I’m beginning to realise that it’s not about being in the EU or not that comes first, if it was they would have left the conservative party sometime ago, it’s about trying to do it without losing the social status of being a conservative. Although as most people now recognise the “conservative party” in fact, is gone, they cling on desperately to the image they see it portrays of them. The thought of being seen as “one of the others” is an anathema to them, and this comes before any interest in the country or it’s people. Can you imagine Dan Hannan turning up to one of his “special” county cocktail does and saying he was a UKIP MEP? You can see the space clearing around him can’t you?
    This is why the system needs changing, too long has the social structure of the country affected the politics, and saying that doesn’t make me a socialist, the upper echelons of the socialists have exactly the same structure, fear of social exclusion outweighs principle all the time.

  • beenzrgud

    Even if Cameron digs his heals in and is eventually proved right all the EU devotees in Brussels won’t thank him for it, or even give him any credit. That’s just the peevish nature of the beast !

  • Holly

    Do you think Cameron should have kept his opinion of Juncker to himself, while you wrote articles about how ‘bad’ he will be for any hope of renegotiations, because he is a federalist?

    The one fact alone that (to me)shows Cameron might be right about Junck being the wrong bod is, Maguire saying Cameron should not have picked this fight.

    Lets hope he now has the guts to carry through and campaign with the ‘OUT’ camp.
    It will, more than likely be the ONLY time he will ever ‘get’ the British public.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    As a UK PM, you cannot please the Brussels crowd, the insiders to whom the project is everything, nor your fellow PMs, all of whom have intertests of their own, nor the UK electorate. It is not however your duty to please the first two groups. It is amongst those groups’ skills that they have more influence on the UK PM than the last one.

    Better not to care how you are regarded by the EU. A stance of being at odds with them and sticking up for your country’s interests is optimum. Preferably from the status of an ex-member.

    • allymax bruce

      Rhoda, ‘pleasing the UK electorate’, is the last thing on any ‘British’ PM’s mind.
      As far as David Cameron, and his spat with the EU is concerned, David is doing his Little Jack Horner impression; he knows he can ‘large-it-up’ with a show of defiance to the EU, to ingratiate the eurosceptics, while losing nothing.
      As a matter of political fortitude; Cameron can actually push EU to accept the delay, scrutiny, and eventual open vote of Council of Ministers of Juncker, by getting a blocking minority. Of-which, becomes more and more likely as the delay, scrutiny, and open vote is realised!

  • JoeDM

    Maybe Cameron is finally beginning to realise that the only alternative to the EU’s movement to a closer federal state and our eventual forced membership of the Euro is UK exit.

    • Blindsideflanker

      Maybe, but unlikely, we have been down this road before with Cameron, several times, each time it has led to disappointment. I am wondering if Cameron is making the EU a personal Juncker issue to divert us from the policy issue.

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      I doubt it. He’s just using the threat of Brexit as a bargaining aid.

      Incidentally, it made me smile when we heard the EU leaders complaining that Cameron was ‘acting like a bully’, whilst at the same time trying to install Junkers as High Honcho. Hypocrites.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here