David Cameron is right to kick and scream about the next President of the European Commission. The determination in Brussels and Berlin to champion Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker as the new President - a presumptious, ardent federalist opposed to major reform - shows a dangerous contempt for the majority of Europe’s 500 million voters, fifty-seven per cent of whom didn’t vote, while a significant minority of those who did vote rejected the Eurocrat establishment.
Democracy suffers when the demos (people) is ignored.
Juncker’s appointment would be personally devastating for Mr Cameron and two fingers to eurosceptics here and on the continent. But it would also be bad news for europhiles, because it would damage hopes for compromise and for Britain staying in the EU.
Mr Cameron wants to keep the UK in Europe - and, after promising an in/out referendum, he knows that in order to succeed he must somehow persuade the public that he has renegotiated Britain’s EU membership on very favourable terms. Manage that and Mr Cameron would have triumphed where Margaret Thatcher and John Major failed: reconciling Britain with Europe.
But promising a referendum was always a gamble. (Risky to ask people a question if you might not like the answer…) With a federalist like Mr Juncker dealing the cards, the odds are stacked against Mr Cameron.
Although the President is not the most important figure in Europe - that accolade goes to the Kanzlerin Angela Merkel, Mr Juncker’s supporter - they still have great influence. The President needs to be able to carry sceptics and recalcitrants with them, not jettison them at the sign of trouble. The Commission which the President leads also has the “sole right” to initiate EU laws.
Back to Mr Cameron. Better a confrontation with Brussels now, when he still has some control over Britain’s political destiny.