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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Nurse and Room Leader - Hackney

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a qualified childcare p...

Recruitment Genius: Agency Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Network Support Engineer is r...

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - Tech Startup - Direct Your Own Career Path

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent