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?