Cameron wants to junk Juncker. He’s right and Miliband should support him

by Renie Anjeh

In spite of his party’s victory in the Newark by-election, Cameron has been embroiled in yet another fight with his fellow European leaders. This time, it is over who becomes the next president of the European Commission.  Strangely enough, on this particular issue, Cameron is on the right side of the argument: Jean Claude Juncker is the wrong choice to become president and Ed Miliband should support Cameron in his efforts to block him from the presidency.

A fortnight ago, millions of voters across Europe voted for populist and far-right parties, something which should be of great concern to  all pro-Europeans and progressives. As Tony Blair told the CBI recently, the election results should serve as a “wake up call” for Europe and shows the need for pro-Europeans to press for reform.

To be fair, there have been other European politicians who have tried to come to terms with the results of the Euro elections, but Juncker is not one of them. Instead, he has arrogantly claimed that ‘entitled’ to become president of the Commission and that he is ‘more confident than ever’ that he’ll be the next president.

He is also the politician who told a group of finance ministers that politicians should ‘have to lie’ when economic situations become serious. His attacks on Britain in recent days, because of the Prime Minister’s opposition to his candidature, show that he is not serious about keeping the European Union together.

Juncker embodies the idea that the European Union by an out-of-touch, arrogant elite.  It may be an unfair perception but it is part of the reason why many voters have become disenfranchised. If European leaders appoint Juncker as the next Commission president, it would not just be a rejection of Blair’s sagacious advice but it would embolden extremists and populists such as Ukip and the Front National. That is not something that Europe can afford.

Many of Juncker’s supporters claim that he has democratic mandate, because he was the European People’s Party’s candidate for the job of President and the EPP have the highest number of MEPs.  This is a completely flawed argument because only one in ten voters in Europe could name Jean Claude Juncker (and that includes the people of Luxembourg, the country he led for 18 years) and national governments still have the final say. The idea that Labour voters across the country were voting for Martin Schulz to become President of the European Commission or that voters in Germany who voted for the CDU were voting for Juncker to become president is beyond ludicrous.

Also, Juncker’s prescription to solve Europe’s problems – which is essentially ‘business as usual’ or even federalism – is not what the people of Europe want, and it is not what the EU needs.

With the emergence of growing economies in Latin America and Asia, reform is no longer an option but an imperative if Europe is to be successful in the so-called “global race”. Why does the Common Agricultural Policy consume a large part of the EU’s budget when it should be spending more on innovation, skills and technology? Why hasn’t the Single Market been completed in services, digital, energy, transport and telecoms? Surely the EU should be focusing on things that it could do at supranational level such as tackling climate change, counterterrorism and international crime rather than lecturing our national parliament about council tax and Help to Buy (even though it’s advice was perfectly sound)?

The European Union needs a leader who understands the new challenges that the European Union faces. Juncker has shown that he is absolutely not that person.

However, David Cameron is partly to blame. It was Cameron who removed the Conservative Party from the European People’s Party to join the European Conservative and Reformists – a group whose members make Nigel Farage look like a Hampstead liberal.  Even David Davis, the standard-bearer of the Tory right, opposed the move when Cameron proposed it during the 2005 Tory leadership election.

Rather than allying his party with extremists, in order to garner the support the Tory right, Cameron should have kept his party in the EPP which would have not only pleased Angela Merkel but would have meant that he could have influenced the EPP’s choice of candidate.

What’s more, Cameron has not really made the case for proper reform of the European Union. Instead he is pretending that he could deliver a grand renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU when he knows full well that the result will be nothing more than a couple of minor changes that will not satisfy his backbenchers.

But even though Cameron has made mistakes on European policy, he is absolutely right in wanting to stop Juncker and it is good that leading pro-Europeans such as Nick Clegg, Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair support him on this issue.  Now it’s time for Ed Miliband to publicly endorse the Prime Minister’s efforts to junk Juncker.

He and Douglas Alexander should get on the phone to other centre-left leaders in Europe such as Francois Hollande, Matteo Renzi and even Merkel’s deputy Sigmar Gabriel, and urge them to support a reform-minded candidate for Commission president.  Personally, I think that Helle Thorning-Schidmt, the prime minister of Denmark, would be a great choice for the job.  Christine Lagarde would also an impressive choice if she can be prised away from her duties as director of the IMF.

Ed Miliband could be Prime Minister in less than eleven months time but he has said very little on this issue.  In fact, he has not really made the case for Britain’s membership of the EU. By proactively supporting efforts to stop Juncker becoming president and making the case for Britain in Europe – whilst supporting the case for reform – Miliband could finally make his voice heard on this issue.

Renie Anjeh is a Labour party activist

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4 Responses to “Cameron wants to junk Juncker. He’s right and Miliband should support him”

  1. You’re quoting an exceedingly sketchy poll, by the Tory EU group, for the name recognition numbers. You also don’t mention that the same hostile poll found 20% of voters watched the debates, which is quite impressive considering the media in some countries like the UK totally ignored the whole thing.

    You’re right to criticize the Tories for leaving the EPP then ignoring the process, but you could have added that UK Labour have been nearly as bad. If there was some “reforming” candidate who would have been better they should have nominated them. There was a mechanism in place for an EU-wide primary, which would have engaged voters and raised the profile of the winning candidate, but it went unused because only one candidate was nominated.

    Hopefully next time UK Labour will actually show up for the election and we’ll have a proper, contested primary. Setting the precedent this time that the votes matter will mean that if the socialist group wins the election, they’ll be able to get their candidate adopted. If the three right-wing governments manage to find someone else to join them and knife Juncker, you’ll most likely end up with another similar right-wing candidate, and no way for the voters to get rid of him at the next election.

  2. swatantra says:

    …. and hint that Tony, or Gordon, be given a proper job. With a Brit at the helm, our european interests should be safeguarded. At the worst we’ed be willing to accept la Garde, or even Clegg.

  3. Rallan says:

    “With a Brit at the helm, our european interests should be safeguarded”

    Even if that were true (it’s not) it would only be a temporary solution.

  4. Exabour says:

    As a reminder for you Renie, Tony Blair signed EU treaties based on his so called negotiated poistion that in return there would be major reform of the CAP. The treaties were signed and where is the reform of the CAP? For Blair read Junker. Political elite lying to the voters. Then you wonder why parties like UKIP are on the rise.

    As for Miliband he hasn’t said much about anything, let alone Europe. In fairness he probably knows that its a toxic issue with the public and coming out in support of the EU is a vote loser. On top of the already declining Labour support, this would be the last thing he needs.

    One thing you can say about Cameron is at least he is prepared to stand up and say no to Junker, loudly and in public. Whereas Miliband and Labour are silent. Thats because fundementally they believe everything in the EU garden is rosey. Europhiles have allowed the EU machine to grow and control everything and its time to put a halt to it. Voters across Europe said so just a few days ago.

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