David Cameron doubles down on attempt to block Jean-Claude Juncker

 

Political Editor

David Cameron’s isolation over Europe deepened last night as he refused to back down over his attempt to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission.

After losing support among Britain’s natural EU allies, Mr Cameron’s negotiating stance was criticised by Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians at home.

Kenneth Clarke, the Minister without Portfolio and a prominent pro-European, said Mr Juncker was “not an arch-villain” and the idea he was an “arch-federalist” was overblown. He said the row over the former Luxembourg Prime Minister was “out of all proportion”. But he backed Mr Cameron’s push to find a better candidate and suggested Christine Lagarde, the French head of the International Monetary Fund.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, said: “It hasn’t been good for David Cameron. I think he’s right in principle that the appointment of the Commission president shouldn’t be foisted on heads of government [by] the European Parliament. But the way it’s been done, unfortunately, has not helped Britain punch its weight in Europe.”

There were further Coalition tensions as Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Treasury Secretary, released new Treasury figures showing that 3.3m jobs are “connected” to Britain’s membership of the EU. It emerged that George Osborne did not want the estimate published before last month’s Euro elections and that Mr Alexander had to fight hard to disclose the figure at all.

Labour claimed Mr Cameron had played a strong hand poorly. “It is a sign of his weakness, not strength, that he is so isolated amongst our allies in Europe,” said Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary.

Yesterday Mr Cameron rejected a last-minute plea for him to retreat in telephone calls with Germany’s Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, who are backing Mr Juncker despite their initial doubts. Downing Street said Mr Cameron explained that his opposition to the process would not change. One British source said: “This is not about some backroom deal using Mr Juncker as a bargaining chip.”

Mr Cameron will make clear his reservations about Mr Juncker at a dinner of EU leaders tonight in Ypres, Flanders, after a ceremony to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War. They are due to discuss EU strategy for the next five years, without choosing the European Commission head until a formal summit in Brussels on Friday. Mr Cameron will argue tonight that the leaders cannot split EU priorities from the person who will head the Commission.

Mr Cameron will force an unprecedented vote at tomorrow’s summit, breaking with the tradition that the top Brussels job is decided by consensus and challenging other EU leaders to say why Mr Juncker is the right man. He will argue they have broken the gentleman’s agreement over appointments by pushing ahead with Mr Juncker without the UK’s backing.

Mr Cameron may have the support of only one of the other 27 EU members – Hungary. British officials signalled that Mr Cameron would accept the summit’s decision. “We will respect the process,” one said.

Mrs Merkel told the German Parliament it would be “no drama” if Mr Juncker were approved without unanimity.

Mr Cameron told the Commons: “It's important that the people involved understand that we need reform in Europe and it doesn't matter how hard I have to push this case. I will take it all the way to the end.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
science
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003