Coffee House

What Cameron and Labour want to get out of the Juncker row

26 June 2014

Labour has supported David Cameron’s attempt to block Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, but that hasn’t stopped it getting a little pre-emptive attack in today as the Prime Minister prepares for failure at the European Council. Douglas Alexander argued this morning that ‘there was an alliance that was to be built, but alas it appears that the Prime Minister so badly misjudged his tactics and his strategy that that’s not going to be the outcome in the next 24 hours’. At Business Statement in the Commons today, Angela Eagle joked:

‘Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister sent the England football team a recorded good luck message, and jet over a week later, the team crashed out of the World cup. With the European Council upon us and the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker looking increasingly inevitable, may I suggest one last desperate tactic that the Prime Minister could use to stop him? Forget about the Luxembourg compromise; the Prime Minister should send him a good luck message.’

The purpose of both these comments – one serious and one witty – is to show that the Prime Minister is a poor negotiator and that it’s not the recalcitrance of European leaders that’s led to Juncker looking like the inevitable victor, but the poor skills of the Prime Minister. Labour has a point here, and it’s one underlined by the leaked Polish tapes: Cameron does not always read other leaders particularly well, or woo them particularly impressively. Alexander wants to suggest that the Juncker incident is indicative of Cameron’s personal inability, and that this personal inability will naturally hamper the renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with Europe.


Cameron’s response this afternoon has been to argue that by pursuing his point about the principle of appointing Juncker, he’s keeping to his word. He said:

‘People need to know that with me, when I say I’m going to do something in Europe, I’ll do it. When I said I was going to cut the European budget, I did. I said I would veto a treaty if I was unhappy with it, I did, and I said I would oppose this and insist on a vote and I will. I’m completely unapologetic about standing up for an important principle in Europe, which is that the elected heads of government should make these choices, and I’m also unapologetic about the need for people that can carry forward badly-needed reform in Europe. There will be a vote tomorrow, we’ll see the outcome of that vote, but it’s absolutely vital that people know with me you get what I say I’m going to do in Europe.’

Cameron is hinting at a more pressing concern here, which is that voters don’t even believe that he is going to make good his promise of a renegotiation and a referendum (see the Sun today for more on that). He needs to convince them that he won’t flip-flop on the referendum pledge after the General Election, and is to a certain extent helped by the refusal of Labour and (at present at least) the Lib Dems to promise a referendum. If the other parties were promising plebiscites too, then the debate would be as much about who would be the best at renegotiating Britain’s relationship with Europe, rather than who will do it.

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  • P_S_W

    What a surprise.

    Labour support the same objective but would have done things differently.

    As with everything else ever.

    • snowright

      Yet, as usual, they never detail ‘how they would do things differently’. Labour, as usual, full of weasel words – they can say anything they like knowing they don’t have to deal with it. Now that’s brave!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • global city

    Nuttall’s inability to assure people that ‘leaving Europe’ is not genuinely ‘dangerous’ on QT last night highlights how the propaganda of the europhiles has seeped into society at large.

    they do not like the EU but fear leaving. The loss of democracy through TRANSFERRING powers (i.e, giving them away) is also lost on most.

  • evad666

    Since the question of Mr Junckers position came to the fore I have
    reviewed the election correspondence I received from all the parties and
    can find nothing about the following parties:-

    The EPP
    The S&D
    The ECR
    The ALDE
    The GUE/NGL
    The Greens/EFA
    The EFD

    I have been asked to vote for parties who might become parts of these
    groups not these groupings which are built after the results are known.

    This is grossly dishonest, corrupt and undemocratic.

    The groupings should be formed prior to elections and these groups should
    clearly campaign on their manifestos during such elections.

    Currently I do not believe other than for a few showcase debates on the web any
    of these parties and their candidates have any campaigned.
    Hence I question the legitimacy of the result and hence the EU needs to ask whether it has any rights to practice competencies. or set legislation. .

  • Richard N

    I think people are finally beginning to realize that Cameron is 100% signed-up to the EU ‘project’ – and regardless of all his posturing over Juncker, etc., trying to imitate a patriot fighting for Britain against the EU, he would never – NEVER – countenance leaving the EU.

    That is not because he believes in it: it’s because the major Tory donors have given their millions in return for a guarantee of that – and also because Cameron is bound hand and foot, like all other EU national leaders, by Merkel and the EU, but is allowed to pretend otherwise… within limits.

    • Tony_E

      Alternatively, one might realistically take the view that he hasn’t up until this point picked fights he cannot win, and hasn’t rocked the boat with his own coalition at home too hard, because the domestic political scene is so difficult.

      Some who hate the EU, and Cameron, simply want to portray what is probably just pragmatism as some kind of dishonesty. No PM wants to be the one who has to go through the article 50 negotiations. Politicians realise that what Brown signed didn’t create an exit clause, it created a two year period of terrible uncertainty which would dominate any parliamentary term. That was the point of Lisbon – the rejected constitution by any other name.

      At a point of economic weakness, no PM would wish that instability. But if a government were to actually propose an article 50 withdrawal, it would have no chance of winning a referendum unless it has been demonstrated that we had done everything possible to avoid that route.

      Your accusation is easy to make, but of course the Lisbon treaty was already incorporated into the treaty of Rome by the time Cameron was elected, which would have made the referendum a pointless exercise in money burning.

  • Conway

    When I said I was going to cut the European budget, I did. I said I would veto a treaty if I was unhappy with it, I did” and the EU ignored both protests as it always does. At least people are beginning to wake up to the fact we have absolutely no influence in the EU whatsoever. Better off out!

  • Smithersjones2013

    I can only surmise that Cameron is a closet secessionist because it was always more than likely that Brussels would dismiss his concerns and over rule him making him look weak and impotent and make Brussels look callous and dismissive of our concerns.

    If he thinks that being dogged about a lost cause whilst demonstrating how weak and impontent he is, is a sensible strategy then everything I have thought about his desperate lack of political nouse is true. Frankly Cameron is UKIP’s poster boy for why we need to leave the EU. He has demonstrated perfectly what it is to be ‘In Europe and humiliated by Europe’. It’s so kind of Dave to become UKIP’s lead recruitment sargeant.

    As for Labour I’m sure they wish it would just go away because Cameron is doing UKIP’s work for them and given UKIP’s ability to take Labour votes as well as Tory this farce doesn’t help either of them.

    As for Alexander’s gambit if he thinks Miliband will get on any better than Cameron then he is even more deranged than his former boss Brown. Cameron maybe a lot of things and despite his many failings he is an eminently a more credible National leader on such matters than the misfit heading up Labour. Having Miliband in charge will be a national embarrassment!

    • robertsonjames

      Juncker’s insertion tells us many things, including that the other major European leaders have pretty much open contempt for Britain and British Euroscepticism; that either they don’t think we’ll leave whatever provocations they offer or they no longer care if we do; and that in any case they have been told by their advisors that a soft-touch Euro-friendly Miliband government will be in power this time next year so no concessions to British sensibilities are now required.

      • Conway

        Given 1) and 2) you would be insane not to vote UKIP in such numbers that Miliband didn’t have a stonking majority.

  • JonBW

    Angela Eagle: she’s no Joan Rivers, is she?

  • swatnan

    Up your juncker Dave!

  • Tony_E

    No-one should forget that this whole scenario is one that could not have happened without the signing of the EU constitution (which several countries had rejected in referenda), by our own PM, Gordon Brown.

    It was so egregious an act of treachery that he sneaked in after the main event to put his name to the previously rejected document.

    He could have put the Lisbon Treaty to the vote, but he declined to do so, dishonestly trying to explain this away by claiming that the Lisbon treaty was altogether different.

    We can see now, in black and white, what the constitution delivers to the strongest grouping in the EU parliament: The ability to be able to usurp the powers of the nationally elected heads of government.

    • Michael O’Reilly

      The Conservatives would have signed up to the Lisbon treaty anyway.

      • HookesLaw

        They voted against it in parliament and said that if not ratified when they came to govt they would giver a referendum and recommend NO.
        So you are wrong . I suppose it makes you happy though.

        • saffrin

          It’s not just the fraudulent expenses claims that leave today’s MPs untrustworthy when you consider every MP from the LibLabCon’s stood for election in 2005 on a manifesto promising a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

          Criminal charges of fraud should have been brought against every MP who voted to renege on that promise.

          • robertsonjames

            Well that’s virtually all the Lib Dem and Labour MPs, who voted for Lisbon despite their 2005 manifesto promises, and almost none of the Tory MPs, who voted against just as they’d said they would. But I presume that as most Kippers are weak on both logic and the facts they won’t realise that that’s the burden of your argument.

            • saffrin

              Seeing as Gay Hauge’s legal attempt to overthrow that vote was so weak it was doomed to fail, I put the Conservatives in with Lab-Lib/Dem.

          • Conway

            Alas, Gordon went to court to establish that manifesto commitments were all hot air and in no way binding.

      • Tony_E

        I don’t think so. To be honest, if the leadership thought they could, it would have torn the Conservative party apart, because everyone knew that it was simply the constitution couched in arcane and obscure language to deceive the public.

        The Conservatives at no point supported the Lisbon treaty, and voted against it almost to a man. Had they been in power it would certainly not have been ratified.

        It’s inaccurate and simply panders to the UKIP narrative to suggest that Labour and Conservatives are the same on Europe, they simply aren’t. Labour are fully pro Federalisation, as are the Lib Dems. Conservatives are generally either anti Europe or for a trade and vital interests only EU rather than further integration, UKIP is the only party of out on a point of principle. All make decisions based on the fear of the economic disruption the process of leaving would cause, rather than the positive benefits of either staying or leaving.

        The largest problem with the parties of out (and I’m a better off outer myself), is that they are failing to articulate what the details of ‘Out’ are in an meaningful way, how it would be achieved, what the constitutional position after article 50 has been invoked, and what we stand to gain and lose over what period of time.

      • robertsonjames

        Nonsense. There are around a hundred Tory MPs with a history of Eurosceptic rebellion who it’s extremely hard to imagine going through the Aye lobby to approve Lisbon under any circumstance whatsoever. Any endorsement of Lisbon by a hypothetical Tory PM in the last Parliament, if he had been mad enough to destroy his relationship with his party by trying to do so, would therefore have been dependent upon Labour and Lib Dem MPs to get his way.

        But because a Labour government signed us up to Lisbon in the last Parliament a million or so dim-witted Eurosceptics decided it would be sensible to help elect a couple of dozen more Labour and Lib Dems MPs into the present Parliament like Balls in Morley and Outwood or Munt in Wells ahead of good Eurosceptic Tory candidates like Heathcoat-Amery and Calvert. The result, predictably, was a coalition in which the Tories ended up beholden to the Lib Dems. And next time around, showing that they’ve learned absolutely nothing about how first-past-the-post electoral systems work, the same people intend to to bless us with a Miliband government which, apparently, will be yet another triumph for the cause of Euroscepticism.

        • Conway

          My “eurosceptic” Conservative MP is actually anything but, judging by his voting record. I wouldn’t mind betting quite a few others are like him, too. Deeds, not words, are what are important. The Tories need to stop splitting the UKIP vote, particularly in LD and Lab marginals.

        • global city

          The Eurosceptic ‘bastards’ went through the Yes lobby for the Maastricht Treaty when the party chips were down….even Bill Cash.

          That’s one of the problems

    • evad666

      Didn’t Brown sign it after midnight?

  • southerner

    “….it’s absolutely vital that people know with me you get what I say I’m going to do in Europe.”

    Early contender for lie of the decade surely.

    • HookesLaw

      No – you have no evidence to say that.

      • telemachus

        Not lying

  • Honig

    Married to a Swede since 1978 and living in Sweden since 2004, no surprise to me that Reinfeldt backed out of opposing Juncker. The press here are supine, the politicians are supine and the Swedes only interested in a quiet and easy life. Didn’t Fraser warn Cameron!

  • John Gerard

    The psychopath Juncker’s appointment is great news. It means a faster end to this EU debacle than otherwise would have happened.

    • Michael O’Reilly

      But David Cameron supports EU membership.

      • HookesLaw

        But not on any terms – for example he has clearly stated that he does not support ‘ever closer union’.
        This is the point – the Eurozone will bring ever closer union, thats the inevitable consequence of a currency union, but we are not in the Euro. We will thus need to renegotiate our terms. And come the referendum, if we have the tories, you can vote.

        • Smithersjones2013

          But he also said that whatever deal he came back from Brussels with he would recommend that the country stay in the referendum. So if Brussels offer only full integration or leaving then Cameron would recommend full integration.

          That’s the trouble with Cameron you can’t trust a word he says about Europe and no one has a clue what his real position is. I’m not sure he knows anymore and is just making up as he goes along….

          • Ed B

            “But he also said that whatever deal he came back from Brussels with he would recommend that the country stay in the referendum.”

            Source please?

        • Conway

          The EU is headed towards a USE. It will not turn. Cameron wants us to stay in (he’s said that on numerous occasions). You cannot be “in Europe but not ruled by Europe” any more than you can be a little bit pregnant. It is in our best interests to leave asap, otherwise we will end up being subsumed into the USE and ultimately in the euro (because there will be no alternative).

        • global city

          The Treaty of Rome brings ever closer Union.

          it is the core strand that keeps the project going.

          The Euro is nothing to do with it.

    • telemachus

      Not at all
      The Juncker row underlines the impotence of Cameron
      Juncker is a savvy man and will offer Olive Branches such that you can take it that a stay in vote will be a certainty

      • Andy

        You reckon. Juncker is a liar and a drunk. He hasn’t got a brain and so will offer no Olive Branches and even if he did they would be wrapped with barbed wire.

        • telemachus

          But he has Merkel to keep him on the straight and narrow

          • Andy

            Ah yes, the fourth Reich. Heil Merkel.

      • global city

        For once you have a valid point.

        Juncker has said that the UK could be offered a deal of some sort of ‘Association’, were we trade but are no longer part of the political project, but the Tories do not want this.

        Secretly they have no problem with ‘Ever closer Union’.

    • DaveTheRave

      I concur, enough said.

    • southerner

      “It means a faster end to this EU debacle than otherwise would have happened.”

      Not with the Camerloons anywhere near Downing Street it doesn’t.

      • telemachus

        Worry not
        They will not be anywhere near after next May

        • Kitty MLB

          Well , mad Browns two backroom boys that we
          know helped him to create chaos will most certainly not be around after next may…

          • telemachus

            Dear Dear Ladybird
            It is a source of sorrow to me that you will not get your wish
            Anything they learned at the feet of the economic genius who gave us the longest period of prosperity in our history, before Lehman blew in, will keep them in good stead

            • Andy

              That mad Fascist Brown. The one who spent, spent, spent and spent. And borrowed, borrowed, borrowed.

              • evad666

                Well he did have to keep that whore Prudence he kept going on about.

            • Aberrant_Apostrophe

              You must have a pretty weird definition of prosperity. If I maxed out my credit cards, remortgaged my house, took out as many payday loans as possible, I would be ‘prosperous’ in your book.

            • ButcombeMan

              Northern Rock. A British Bank on the “Great Leader’s Watch”.”

              The creator of “The Big Brown Mess”. A “psychologically flawed” individual who should never have been allowed near government. Some economic genius then if . his own side
              called him “psychologically flawed”.

              No wonder he keeps his head down. An economic illiterate in my view.

    • Tony_E

      I would be surprised. It might push us a little closer to the exit, and I suppose that might set off a chain reaction.

      However, if Junker is elected, and we vote to stay in 2017 (given the chance), the only end I see it popular revolt amidst a currency crisis caused by poor central economic management. That would take years to come about, probably 20-30 years unless there is an outside influence on events. Think about the collapse of the soviet union – it took years before its internal contradictions eventually tore it apart. How much force will the centre be willing to use once it is a fully fledged EU state? Not as much as the Soviet Union I’m sure, but in the days of data and people’s whole lives managed by computer, soft power is very pervasive. Once each individual is scared of the state’s power, who will be the first to cast a telling blow?

    • Fergus Pickering

      Psychopath? I thought he was just a chain-smoking drunk, quite atractive really.

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