It is becoming clear just how hard it is going to be for David Cameron to reform the European Union - but at least now, when Britain speaks, Europe pays attention
By Telegraph View
MEPs, in particular, have continued to push for Jean-Claude Juncker, one of the last prominent supporters of a “United States of Europe”, to be installed as the new president of the European Commission. For them, despite the election results, it remains very much business as usual. Worse, Mr Juncker seems to believe that he is entitled to the job. After Mr Cameron reportedly told Angela Merkel his appointment would backfire, he said: “Europe must not allow itself to be blackmailed.” It is telling that, in the eyes of this arch-federalist, those who disagree with him are acting subversively. In reality, however, it is Mr Juncker and his ilk who ignore the wishes of the people. This is a man who once remarked of the controversial Lisbon Treaty: “Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?” Plainly, he is not the best answer to Europe’s current problems.
To his credit, the Prime Minister recognises what Mr Juncker’s appointment would represent – and how difficult it might make renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the EU before the promised 2017 referendum. That is why he has worked hard to prevent it, urging Europe’s leaders, who have the final say on the appointment, to “heed the views expressed at the ballot box”. Fortunately, his efforts have not been entirely in vain. Yesterday Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, spoke out in support of Mr Cameron. He emphasised that Mr Juncker is just “one name” among many in the running for the job. Diplomatic briefings reveal that France and Germany share similar worries.
This does at least show that when Britain makes its views strongly felt in Europe, they are listened to – at least by those European leaders who recognise that it is not in their interests for the UK to leave the EU. As Mr Cameron plans the renegotiations, he can therefore take heart that – though the going may be tough, and the resistance from Brussels relentless – the fundamental and far-reaching reform that Europe so badly needs is not beyond our grasp.
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