David Cameron has warned that he could not guarantee the UK’s membership of the European Union if Jean-Claude Juncker is elected as the European Commission president, German magazine Der Spiegel has reported.
Mr Cameron is reported to have told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that if the ex-Luxembourg prime minister takes up the presidency, it could destabilise his Government to the extent that an in-out referendum would be need to be brought forward.
Der Spiegel claims that Mr Cameron’s comments were made earlier this week at an informal EU summit in Brussels, citing sources close to the participants of the summit.
An early referendum would most likely lead to the UK voting to quit the EU, the sources are reported to have understood.
Downing Street has declined to comment on the article, but a senior Government source told the BBC that it did not recognise the language about destabilisation and that it is not something the Prime Minister would have said.
The Prime Minister’s opposition to Mr Juncker is “no secret” in Brussels the BBC said, adding that the UK’s view of the need for change within the EU is “well established”.
Correspondents say that Mr Cameron had made his views clear and that he wanted a reformer to take charge of the EU executive, the BBC said, while Der Spiegel’s article claims the Prime Minister told Chancellor Merkel that “a face from the 80s can’t solve the problem of the next five years”.
But Ms Merkel has already publically backed Mr Juncker for the job. He belongs to the European People’s Party, which won the most seats in the European elections last week.
Ms Merkel said on Friday that the party, “with its top candidate Jean-Claude Juncker, has become the strongest political power which is why I am now conducting all talks exactly in this spirit, that Jean-Claude Juncker should become president of the European Commission”.
The European Commission president is selected by EU leaders, though they must be approved by the assembly, and Mr Juncker called on the majority of leaders not to bow to the pressure from the minority in their decision, Reuters reports.
Reuters said his comments come from an advance extract of an article from German newspaper Bild am Sonntag on Sunday. Mr Juncker said “Europe must not allow itself to be blackmailed,” and added that while the majority of the Christian Democratic and socialist leaders in the European Council backed him, he is also keen to get “all the other heads of Government on board too”.