David Cameron is on a collision course with the new parliament in Brussels over plans to appoint a federalist as the next head of the European Commission.
Ahead of a meeting of EU leaders, the Prime Minister vowed on Tuesday night to push for reform of Brussels, which he described as “too big, too bossy, too interfering”.
Discussion on how to win back voters’ after a surge in support for Eurosceptic and fringe parties was expected to dominate late-night discussions, with Mr Cameron joined by the French President, François Hollande, in demanding a rethink of the way the EU works.
But while the French ruling party considers its role in the EU as crucial to generating economic growth, Mr Cameron will push for a repatriation of powers to national parliaments.
“The EU cannot just shrug off these results and carry on as before – we need an approach that recognises that Europe should concentrate on what matters, on growth and jobs, not try to do so much,” Mr Cameron said as he arrived at the dinner meeting.
German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also yesterday expressed concern about the results, telling a conference in Berlin: “We have to [ask ourselves] what mistakes we made if a quarter of the [French] electorate voted for not a right-wing party but for a fascist, extremist party.” His comments sparked outrage from the FN, which denies any fascist links.
While Mr Cameron may find some new allies in his bid to reform the EU, he has a bigger battle over the next European Commission President. For the first time, the political groups in the parliament nominated their choice for the role, and they are backing the European People’s Party’s Jean-Claude Juncker for the post.
But the former prime minister of Luxembourg – who advocates deeper integration in Europe – is not backed by Downing Street. Mr Cameron is expected to push for an independent candidate.
Other European leaders such as Angela Merkel backed Mr Juncker’s candidacy, so the Prime Minister may struggle to win allies.