Observer interview

I was quoted today in The Observer:

Richard Corbett, elected in May as a Labour MEP after being an adviser to Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European council, said Cameron had set too much store by Merkel as an ally, believing that if he had her on side he was home and dry. “He heard what he wanted to hear from Merkel,” he said.

Even after Merkel had switched to backing Juncker, Cameron continued to fight, even though the commission president will have little if any role in negotiations on Britain’s future terms of membership.

“EU reforms are decided by member governments,” Corbett said, “not by the commission president. Cameron spent too much ammunition on a minor skirmish and lost it. In opposing so vehemently the candidate of centre-right conservative governments, he annoyed the very people he wants as allies. […]

“Does Juncker’s nomination show unwillingness of other countries to reform? Is it a rebuff to Britain? No. It is simply a rebuff to swashbuckling tactics of a PM who put forward no candidate of his own, misread the intentions of his colleagues and appeared unaware of the actual procedure. Inept.”

Everybody is saying they want EU reforms, but they differ on what sort they want. Cameron’s aims have not been spelled out — and when he does spell them out, they will split his party. In the meantime, this skirmish was intended to show his firmness against, er… something, without actually having to show what he’s for. Of course his party can agree they don’t much like Juncker (or any other likely nominee), but they can’t agree on a reform agenda.

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