Open Europe Blog

The UK suffered a major defeat this afternoon when it was outvoted over Juncker becoming the next president of the European Commission. However, this isn’t the end of the road for reform – not even close – but it certainly has strengthened the risk of Britain leaving the EU. See here for a our full analysis of this.

So did the UK get any early concessions? In his press conference, David Cameron took his defeat on the chin and said it would make his reform strategy harder:

“Today’s outcome is not the one I wanted. And it makes it harder, and the stakes higher…This is going to be a long, tough fight and sometimes you have to be ready to lose a battle to win a war. It has only stiffened my resolve to fight for reform in the EU, because it is crying out for it.”

Cameron was asked whether much more of this kind of thing would prompt him to recommend an ‘Out’ vote in a referendum. He declined the offer but did make the point that:

“And at the end of 2017, it will not be me, it will not be the House of Commons, it won’t be Brussels who decide about Britain’s future in the European Union. It will be the British people. It will be their choice, and their choice alone.”

 There were three nods to the UK in the Council conclusions:

  • “The UK raised some concerns related to the future development of the EU. These concerns will need to be addressed.”
  • “The European Council noted that the concept of ever closer union allows for different paths of integration for different countries, allowing those that want to deepen integration to move ahead, while respecting the wish of those who do not want to deepen any further.” 
  • “Once the new European Commission is in place, the European Council will consider the process for the appointment of the President of the European Commission for the future, respecting the European Treaties.”  

Any of this significant? It’s the basis for a conversation but can mean anything and nothing at the moment. It falls way short of compensating for the defeat inflicted on Cameron. As we argue, it all depends on what happens next.

There were also this on the role of national parliaments:

“In line with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, the Union must concentrate its action on areas where it makes a real difference. It should refrain from taking action when member states can better achieve the same objectives. The credibility of the Union depends on its ability to ensure adequate follow-up on decisions and commitments. This requires strong and credible institutions, but will also benefit from closer involvement of national parliaments.”

Again, hardly earth-shattering. So what happens next?

Well, in the short-term, there are three things to watch:

  1. Will there but further nods to Cameron over the next few days and weeks? There’s already talk of Merkel, Hollande and Cameron doing something jointly. 
  2. Who will become the European Council President? This is in many ways the person who will broker the agreement between EU leaders that will decide whether the UK will stay in the EU. This will be decided at an EU summit on 17th June. 
  3. The other portfolios in the European Commission and who will become the UK’s candidate. Surely, Cameron must now respond by sending a big hitter to secure a top job?
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