by Callum Anderson
As the dust settles on the prime minister’s failure to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming the next President of the European Commission, we can now be clear on one thing: David Cameron is unfit to lead Britain’s renegotiation of its relationship with the European Union.
It is hard to comprehend how this could have gone much worse for Mr Cameron. Indeed, Britain has never had a prime minister who is so unable to build alliances with their European allies.
Even in the early days of his leadership of the Conservative Party (before Mr Cameron became prime minister in 2010), he showed signs of, at best, naivety and, at worst, dangerous incompetence on European issues.
The mistake that is undoubtedly at the root of David Cameron’s problems with our EU partners was his decision in 2009 to take Conservative MEPs out of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament. One only needs an ounce of common sense to conclude that isolating the Conservative Party from a political grouping that included Angela Merkel’s CDU and France’s UMP, was extremely unwise.
As Eunice Goes correctly points out, not only did this decision upset Mrs Merkel, and the then-President Sarkozy, but also effectively voted out of influencing European politics. Had the Conservative Party been a member of that group, Mr Cameron could have used backroom diplomacy to prevent Juncker from becoming the EPP’s “Spitzenkandidaten” at their March meeting.
However, Mr Cameron missed the boat. He chose to reorient the Conservative Party’s political allegiances within the European Parliament towards the fringe European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, who, as well as know, included partners who held highly distasteful views on race and sexuality (to mention just a few).