Will British media fall for Cameron’s spin?

Downing Street spin doctors have always had an easy time creating their own version of what happens at European summits. A combination of lobby journalists with little understanding of the EU, some compliant allies in the press, and not wanting facts to get in the way of a good story, usually combine to ensure that a large part of the media simply swallow the Prime Minister’s spin.

So, will they fall for the following today and tomorrow?

“David Cameron has demanded a vote on Juncker’s appointment”

In fact, a vote is exactly what the established procedure provides for. The decision is taken by a qualified majority (about three-quarters of the votes, which are weighted by size of the country). There is a qualified majority for Juncker, so if Cameron really wants to block him, he should be arguing against having a vote, saying that such an (allegedly) important decision should be taken by consensus, not by overruling a large member state.

“It is an irreversible step which would hand power from the European Council [heads of state and government] to the European Parliament”

No. Juncker was proposed as a candidate by the centre-right European People’s Party, chosen at its Dublin congress by Merkel, Rajoy, Kenny and other national leaders. He was not chosen by the Parliament, or even the centre-right MEPs. He has never even been a member of the European Parliament — but he has been a Prime Minister (and therefore member of the European Council) for nearly two decades.

True, the Commission President has to secure a majority in the European Parliament, so there is no choice but to take account of who can secure such a majority. To avoid doubt, the treaty specifies that the heads of state or government have to take account of the elections when they make their choice. This procedure was decided by national governments and ratified by national parliaments.

The parties (that is, the associations of like-minded national parties — EPP, Socialists, Liberals, Greens etc — not their groups in parliament) announced a few years ago that they’d decided to announce before the elections, rather than after, who their preferred candidates would be. That process can hardly have been a surprise. And the idea that the prime ministers from the European People’s Party, having announced Juncker as their candidate before the elections, would back down now and expose themselves to the accusation of saying one thing before the elections and doing another after, is wishful thinking.

“This fight is part of the longer struggle to reform the EU”

No, it’s not. If you want reforms, then you do a deal with the centre-right and Juncker, because these are precisely the people that you need to get on board for any reforms. Opposing him in a losing battle in splendid isolation gets you nowhere. Juncker may not be dashing or dynamic, but he represents a segment of the political spectrum in Europe that you need — and one which on policy issues is actually close to where the Tories were.

“Juncker is too much in favour of closer political union”

So what? The Commission doesn’t decide on that. It is a matter for national governments and unanimous national ratification.

“Jean-Claude Juncker is the ultimate Brussels ‘insider'”

If someone who has been Prime Minister of his country is a ‘Brussels insider’, then so is Mr Cameron!

“Appointing Juncker could jeopardise efforts to keep the UK in the EU”

Insinuating that membership of the EU depends on whether you like the Commission President is ludicrous! The Commission only proposes and implements, it doesn’t decide. Its President chairs a college with one Commissioner from each country. Is Cameron trying to divert attention from the issue of who he will propose as the next British Commissioner?

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  1. What nonsense, what spin, from another EU federalist, who has never stood up for the interests of the UK.

    Cameron is doing what the vast majority in the UK want – so the only rough ride he will get is from the socialist rags, like the Guardian.

    Juncker is taking us all down a very poorly planned route at breakneck speed – it was always intended that the EU merge slowly and only when ready – not all forced together, come what may.

    A fully federalised EU has nothing to offer the people of Britain, so if Juncker is horse traded in then it will just help to pave the way for a UK exit.

    • Garbage – British federalist writers were the BEST, and we English citizens need and deserve a federal structur from village to continent. Leave Alan Partridge and Roderick Spode behind!

      • I agree in the UK we do have the best federalist writers – its a real shame though that it’s all warped ideology.

        On what do you base that socialist dogma?

  2. I agree with much of this but Juncker is a Brussels insider by virtue of his role in the deepening of European integration not least as President of the Eurogroup.

    • Yes, he’s very much a part of the Brussels bubble…

      It’s just a shame that they can only think about federalism in the bubble – a fresh idea or two might just change the EU for the better….

      • Fresh ideas are always a plus.
        Unfortunatly there is nothing forthcoming from Great Britain.
        Just the usual laundry list of things which are unwelcome.
        In the long run this is doomed to fail.

        • Indeed. There are some interesting ideas out there that could get adopted – eg the “red card”, letting national parliaments veto proposals on subsidiarity grounds and the “green card”, letting national parliaments initiate European legislation (including revision/repeal of existing laws). Sadly, no one seems to have a realistic plan for reform.

          • Yes – these things would be a starting point.

            But what is really needed here is a consolidation of EC powers – Nobody that is not directly accountable to the voters should have so much power.

  3. Thank you.

    I came to your site via the Guardian.

    I remember listening to the world service one evening when it was explained that the winner of the largest block had to be the candidate for the president.

    We in the uk didn’t understand that because we were not told (I must admit it wouldn’t have made any difference at all in the way that uk voters voted in the elections).

    I am impressed by your explanations of things.

  4. Thanks for an informative post which I largely agree with. One matter I don’t agree, though, is your characterisation of the president as a “chair of the college”. He has to agree the appointment of each commissioner and can sack them at any time. Nowadays it is more like a prime minister presiding over a cabinet.

  5. Eurosceptics of all sides (i.e. British conservatives, UKIP, Far Right parties, members of the self-proclaimed “true Left”,etc.) have kept saying there is a lack of democracy in the designation of EU officials. But in 2014, for the first time, the EPP, the PES, and the other political forces in the Parliament, named their candidates before the election. As a result, J-C Juncker was the only possible choice, from a democratic point of view. Of course he was not elected directly by European voters, but would Mr Cameron have agreed with a direct election of the president of the Commission by voters? Of course not! Eurosceptics are against all what would give more legitimacy to EU officials because they would have to stop saying they are illegitimate.

    • It’s worse than that John – the real question is over the legitimacy of the EC itself – They are seen to have too much power and privelege to direct the EU.

      What is really necessary is the reduction of EC president to a figurehead, while the EC should be otherwise dismantled, and excecutive direction to come from national governments.

      After all, a commission is normally setup to get projects going – at this late stage, it is time to move to a new model.

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