Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

UK Politics

Jean-Claude Juncker: EU Commission hopeful says "I will not get on my knees for Britain"

The EU Commission presidential favourite has also criticised the British press' campaign against him

Jean-Claude Juncker, the favourite to be the next head of the EU Commission, has sent out a strong message to David Cameron saying he would not “get on his knees” to secure the British Prime Minister’s backing.

In comments made to colleagues behind closed doors and released to the press, the former prime minister of Luxemburg said that he would not give in to Britain’s demands and that the British press’ attempts to undermine his candidacy were “a rather desperate move.”

Juncker, who is currently the front-runner in the race for presidency of the European Commission, is said to be supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

However, this is at odds with the type of EU Commissioner David Cameron believes should be put in place.

Juncker is thought to be fiercely pro-Europe and is against the devolution of powers away from the EU.

Cameron feels that the next EU commissioner should be a dynamic reformer and is not convinced that Juncker’s selection will provide the political changes needed to ensure Britain stays in Europe.

It is feared by Number 10 that if Juncker is appointed, it could also have severe ramifications on Cameron’s future plans get concessions for Britain.

In a speech this week, David Cameron said that if Juncker was appointed to lead the European Commission it could lead to a situation where Britain “drifted” towards leaving Europe.

He said: “I think it’s important that we have people running institutions of Europe who understand the need for change, the need for reform.

“It’s about making some significant changes and then putting that decision in a referendum to the British people, but very much recommending that we stay in a reformed EU.

“I think if we just walked away from it, we’d see Britain drift towards the exits, and I don’t want that to happen.”

However, Juncker has responded to Cameron’s threats saying that he would “not beg for Britain’s support.”

Juncker was also very critical of the British press saying that they were using increasingly underhand tactics to try and uncover “dirt” on him.

He said: "What bothers me is the gathering British press campaign. The tabloid press has occupied my house, photographers are harassing my neighbours, they are asking neighbours about family stories," adding, "You had better be ready for a lot more dirt."

Despite Juncker’s strong words, he did indicate that he was willing to negotiate with Britain, but so far “London had not called.”

In “candid discussions” between Merkel, Cameron and Matteo Renzi, Italian prime minister, the German Chancellor said that she would not push the issue of Mr Juncker’s presidency.

However, with strong backing from those in the European Parliament the decision could be out of their hands.