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Janus-faced Juncker sets out his stall

15 July 2014

Jean-Claude Juncker delivered a speech to the European Parliament this morning. Its content was, from the British government’s perspective, provocative. Juncker had one watchword: integration: and a clear idea of how to achieve it. He expressed belief in:

  • Tax harmonisation (especially on corporate tax rates)
  • Integration of capital markets
  • Energy integration and the diversification of energy supply
  • 300bn euros extra spending and a commitment to the ‘social market’
  • A financial transaction tax
  • No new member states for 5 years (how about that, Mr Salmond?)
  • The euro as a unifying force across Europe
  • Freedom of movement

In some respects it was a slightly strange speech for Juncker, a man of the centre-right, to have given. A spending stimulus, financial transaction tax: these are agents of social democracy. Indeed, Juncker said that he was a ‘great fan’ of the social market economy, and added that Europe needed to rehabilitate communitarianism. It was as if his words had been ghosted by the spirit of Jacques Delors.

This was, then, a speech crafted to build alliances with the centre-left and ‘new Europe’, which believe spending and integration to be vital to their interests. Eurosceptics were suitably angered — Ukip MEPs heckled Juncker throughout, while Daniel Hannan poured scorn on Juncker’s conception of ‘reform’, adding that David Cameron was wholly right to oppose his candidacy.

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But, there were sections of the speech which might have appealed to the more hawkish nations of northern Europe. The principle of subsidiarity was a frequent presence. Juncker said, in terms, that the EU must not waste itself on minutiae and must concentrate instead on big issues. He praised the minimum wage, but added that it was for member states to determine; ergo, there would be no pan-European minimum wage. There would, however, be an assault on European red tape, especially that which constrains SMEs. And although Juncker defended the principle of freedom of movement, describing it as an ‘opportunity’ to stimulate growth, he also explicitly stated that it is for member states to police their welfare systems to stop abuses.

So where does this leave Britain? There is, obviously, an opportunity for Philip Hammond and Lord Hill, Britain’s new commissioner, to extract concessions from the Commission in exchange for support for Eurozone integration and ‘social Europe’. Juncker plainly believes in subsidiarity; it is for the British government to push him and regain powers (as yet wholly undefined). Whether or not Britain gets its way is another matter.

Moreover, are Juncker’s integrative measures inimical to British interests? Tax harmonisation would only apply to the Eurozone; but that does not mean that its potential damage would be limited to the Eurozone. The proposed Financial Transaction Tax is a case in point. Britain did not sign up to the proposal, and continued to oppose it through the courts because the government believes that it would harm the business of British companies trading within the tax area. There are several possible points of contention here, which may make a Brexit more likely.

Would any of the integrative measures trigger the referendum lock by requiring a treaty change? EU policy experts suggest that there is scope for these measures under existing treaties; but, the question cannot be meaningfully answered unless or until a firm legislative proposal is made.

This prompts a final question: will the measures contained in Juncker’s politically dextrous speech ever see the light of day? A rhetorical exercise, designed to build alliances and appeal to all things and all men, is but the first and easiest step on the long road to reform.

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  • Diggery Whiggery

    “In some respects it was a slightly strange speech for Juncker, a man of the centre-right, to have given.”

    Not really, to get where he is he needed the socialists, and that means he had to compromise. This is why Euro politicians have no principles, because to do so would put their personal advancement at risk.

  • Diggery Whiggery

    In a funny sort of way if the FTT was the only tax, was applied everywhere and if you assume that the government were capable of tracking every financial transaction in order to tax them, it would be the most efficient and transparent way of taxing people and it wouldn’t distort their economic behaviour.

    Anyhoo, back in the real world it’s a terrible idea.

  • Donafugata

    The eight bullet points above sound like the perfect recipe for the ruination of us all, it gives the rubbish countries the opportunity to drag the better off ones down to their level.

    Mr. Jean-Claude power Junkie should be pleased with himself.

    Slightly off topic, it occurred to me while watching Germany last week, what will be the future for European football if nation states are to be abolished?

    Is Europe to become one team?

  • Augustus

    “When it becomes serious, you have to lie.”
    -Jean-Claude Juncker

    Nothing more need be said.

  • Colonel Mustard

    There is one ‘J’ too many in that headline…

    • telemachus

      Posted before the watershed
      What was it you were saying about proscription?

  • Smithersjones2013

    Would any of the integrative measures trigger the referendum lock by requiring a treaty change?

    i) Firstly article 352 of the Lisbon Treaty is an enabling cluase that allows the Commission to push through changes with no treaty change

    ii) The referendum lock is a fake as it requires the ‘appropriate minister’ to approve its implementation and Hague has already allowed powers to slip away without using it

    The referendum lock is a meaningless gesture that provides no safeguard!

    • allymax bruce

      There’s no time to dither now; Westminster is better-advised to prepare for EU (Lisbon Treaty) exit. This EU project is being ‘run-forward’ regardless; and I mean at its own cost too!
      I foresee ‘Britain’ exiting, making separate ‘trade deals’ with USA, and other European countries, (thank God, the TTIP is a disaster waiting to happen!), and it’s only a matter of time, (probably about 6 years) before the EU starts to crumble under its own ‘enlargement’!
      Take my advice Westminster, prepare to get out asap.

  • Lady Magdalene

    “Would any of the integrative measures trigger the referendum lock by requiring a treaty change?”
    Don’t be silly. The Referendum Lock is there to ensure that we are locked OUT of any say whilst the UK is deconstructed by the EU.
    We’ve seen the future of the EU …. and it looks remarkably like the past of the EU, in the shape of Delors, Mitterand and Kohl.
    Cameron hasn’t a hope of a meaningful renegotiation. But then, he doesn’t want a meaningful one …. just one he can pretend has achieved something significant.
    The EU is still on its downward path to global irrelevance, with the UK shackled to it.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “So where does this leave Britain? There is, obviously, an opportunity for Philip Hammond and Lord Hill, Britain’s new commissioner, to extract concessions from the Commission in exchange for support for Eurozone integration and ‘social Europe’.”

    Why should it be supposed that Philip Hammond would demand concessions in exchange for support for eurozone integration any more than his predecessor Hague did, given that back in 2010 when Merkel demanded an EU treaty change to provide a legal basis for a eurozone bailout facility, what is now the European Stability Mechanism or ESM, Cameron simply gave her that treaty change and asked for nothing substantive in return?

    See that here:

    “WHEREAS … On 25 March 2011, the European Council adopted Decision 2011/199/EU amending Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union with regard to a stability mechanism for Member States whose currency is the euro … ”

    And why should it be supposed that Lord Hill, who would not be “Britain’s new Commissioner” but one of the EU’s new Commissioners, would break his oath of office by seeking changes to benefit his home country rather than doing his sworn duty of serving the EU as a whole?

    • Lady Magdalene

      Bruges Group website shows that Philip Hammond has voted in favour of the EU 62% of the time, He’s no EU sceptic. If he was, he wouldn’t have got the job.

      • MirthaTidville

        and he allowed the Spanish free rein in Gibraltar waters because he didnt want to upset Spain….no Hammond is useless I`m afraid

        • starfish

          He didn’t – the FCO did

  • The Commentator

    Phillip Hammond and Lord (Albert RN) Hill to extract concessions: wow you must be naive! The European Fascist superstate marches on. Love those new sashes they are going to be wearing, Franco and Mussolini would have been thrilled. Only a matter of time now before the torchlight processions begin and the book burning starts.

    • telemachus

      Except that the EU was created to prevent a new Franco
      It is democratic
      In fact Cameron stupidly wanted to abrogate democracy over Juncker

      • Andy

        Juncker did not appear on any ballot across Europe and most certainly not in the UK.

        • telemachus

          Trusted representative of democratic representatives

          • Andy

            Fascist bollocks.

          • Ian Walker

            Elect Hitler and get his trusted representative Goering

      • iviv44

        There you are confusing intended and actual outcomes again. How very socialist.

  • SP

    Tax and spend. Then shutdown the city of London.

    Workers unite as the day the UK will leave the EU draws nearer.

  • eclair

    He sounds to me like someone preparing to pick your pocket then use the house key to whip all the furniture and move all his mates in.

  • dado_trunking

    We just cannot win given that there will be no referendum.
    That’s English perpetual moaning and democrackery for you …

  • Denis_Cooper

    Why are you complaining that the President of the EU Commission proposes to do what the EU treaties say he should do, which is pursue EU integration?

    If the Tories don’t like that, why did they sign us to an unremitting, unlimited and largely uncontrollable process of “ever closer union” in the first place?

    • global city

      where the ECJ has a strict remit to come down on the side of any dispute that furthers further integration.

      it is not a court of law as such.

  • bugshead

    This is absolutely great. Our politicians now have no excuses to stay. Bye bye EU.

    • Conway

      I’m sure they’ll manage to find some, though.

  • andagain

    a commitment to the ‘social market’

    If that means anything at all, it means an economy controlled by the government in what it would say are the best interests of society. That does not leave a lot of space for subsidarity.

    So I can’t say I expect the thing about subsidarity to turn out to be more than hot air.

  • evad666

    This is not the first time and is unlikely to be the last time a European hates us, high time we left as its only to be expected they will start raiding bank accounts soon. The man has the aim of Luxembourg replacing London as a center of financial transactions. His administration created the arrangements that companies use to avoid tax.

    • telemachus

      For the good of us all I say again we must make peace

      • Jock

        At any price?

        • telemachus

          The power reality is that he is now confirm

          • Jock

            Glad we didn’t take that line with Hitler. Very different circumstances, of course – but the same principle.

            • telemachus

              Juncker was confirmed by democratic vote of a democratic assembly today
              With no enabling act

              • Jock

                That’s ok then. Oh, dear oh dear.

              • Wessex Man

                You are a lying piece of S*** yet again, then again I expect you see nothing wrong in the European Parliament conducting a vote with one candidate on the election paper, nor of your country being sold down the river, you commie *****.

              • Donafugata

                Hitler was also elected to power.

      • Lady Magdalene

        Making peace and surrendering are very different.

    • Donafugata

      And this from someone who hails from Luxembourg, along with Monaco, the European tax haven of choice.

  • telemachus

    He hates us
    And with good reason

    Juncker’s father aged 90, who is frail and living in nursing home, wept when a radio station reported on The Sun newspaper’s allegation that he was the Juncker family’s “N@zi link”, an episode that has hardened his son’s hostility to British opposition to his appointment.
    “He was stunned,” said a source close to Mr Juncker. “He despairs that the disgusting part of the British press has such a large influence.”
    Mr Cameron’s staunch opposition to him being appointed Commission president, including Downing Street briefings on his heavy drinking, have confirmed Mr Juncker’s opinion that he must work to bypass Britain in order to stop it obstructing deeper European integration.

    • telemachus

      We need to make peace

      • davidofkent

        Are you arguing with yourself?

        • Andy

          Ignore him: he is a f*ckwit of the first order.

          • telemachus

            The EU was created to bind us all together and prevent the rise of fascism ever avail
            Would you punish all children of folks who worked in our highly repressive colonial service?

            • Andy

              You should be punished and your ghastly spawn.

            • Colonel Mustard

              Bind us all together eh?

              One scam to rule them all, One scam to find them,
              One scam to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
              In the Land of Junker where the Shadows lie.

              • telemachus

                Conspiracy theorists I’ll become you
                We must move forward in the interests of our children and grandchildren

                • Colonel Mustard

                  It’s not just a theory though. The evidence has been empirical for some long time.

                • Hexhamgeezer

                  Our? You’ve repeatedly said you want mine dead.


                • allymax bruce

                  “Conspiracy theorist” (telemachus).
                  isn’t that the ‘excuse’ Jack Straw used about ‘rendition torturing’?
                  Here is what was reported by Guardian; ‘ he told MPs on the Commons foreign affairs committee that …. “unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States … there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition.”

                  Like I’ve alway said, The Labour Party are liars; they even believe their own rhetoric to the point of obvious oblivion.

      • Jock

        “We need to make peace”
        We could have made peace with the Nazis by running up the white flag. I guess we could do the same now in our dealings with the EU.

    • Andy

      The fact remains that the old sod fought for the Nazis. That is original sin, and no amount of waffle from Fascist scum like you can wash that away.

    • andagain

      Mr Cameron’s staunch opposition to him being appointed Commission
      president, including Downing Street briefings on his heavy drinking,
      have confirmed Mr Juncker’s opinion that he must work to bypass Britain
      in order to stop it obstructing deeper European integration.

      So his appointment is a bad sign for the UK, and anyone in it who supports it’s membership of the EU?

    • The Commentator

      You would think he would want to help us leave. Perhaps he knows that more damage will be wrought on Britain by keeping her in.

      • Lady Magdalene

        Someone has to pay for all his profligate plans …. and Germany won’t cough it all up, so it has to be the Brits.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I don’t believe it. Junker’s father was a steel worker so as a skilled manual worker should have been conscripted into the Deutsche Arbeitsfront or Reichsarbeitsdienst. The fact that he ended up fighting in Odessa is highly suspicious and suggests that he was in fact a member or sympathiser of the Volksdeutsche Bewegung. That organisation had 84,000 volunteers whereas only 12,000 Luxembourgers were actually conscripted into the German Army. Luxembourg volunteers also served in the SS.

      The historian Henri Wehenkel wrote: “distinction was made [after the war] between the good and the bad, those who were termed resistants and those who were termed collaborators. Very soon, a consensus came about to only mention the former and to subject the latter to a sort of civic death, to silence and anonymity. All Luxembourgers had resisted, no collaboration had taken place. National unity was re-established.”

      • telemachus

        Leave it
        All a very very long time ago
        As I said
        Let us make peace

        • starfish

          You raised it
          Regretting that are you?

    • Conway

      Cut and pasted from another newspaper. The least you could do was to name it.

      • Andy

        The Fascist has no literary manners, nor any respect for copyright law.

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