Britain took another step towards the EU exit door as David Cameron warned that Jean-Claude Juncker’s appointment to the top job in Brussels would make it harder to persuade the public to remain in the 28-nation bloc.
Mr Cameron’s stark warning came after he suffered a humiliating defeat in his lonely battle to stop the veteran federalist becoming president of the European Commission. At a Brussels summit, EU leaders voted 26-2 to nominate Mr Juncker after Mr Cameron demanded an unprecedented formal vote on a post traditionally settled by consensus. Hungary’s Viktor Orban was the only leader to back the Prime Minister.
Asked if the crushing setback had taken the UK closer to an EU exit, Mr Cameron told a press conference: “The job has got harder of keeping Britain in a reformed Europe. The stakes are higher. Do I think it is an impossible job? No.”
Mr Cameron described Mr Juncker’s appointment as a “serious mistake” and said it was a “bad day for Europe,” which had taken a “big step backwards”. But he argued: “This is going to be a long, tough fight and frankly sometimes you have to be prepared to lose a battle in order to win a war.”
During the summit, Mr Cameron warned his fellow leaders they could “live to regret” the appointment. He explained later that a future “lead candidate” could have views that some leaders would find unacceptable – such as not standing up for the Baltic States and favouring Russia over countries in Eastern Europe.
Mr Cameron’s uncompromising stance over Mr Juncker has strained his relations with some of his natural allies, including Germany’s Angela Merkel. He hoped other leaders will now take his renegotiation demands more seriously because he had “stuck to my guns” in the battle over the Commission post.
But some leaders gave a different version of the summit’s conclusions. Francois Hollande, the French President, said: “David Cameron spoke about the major interest of a country that could slip away from the EU: we can understand this political domestic issue, but at the same time there is no such thing as a veto. in Europe we need to learn to live together in the framework of rules and treaties, there’s no other way.”
Ms Merkel, the German Chancellor, said: “I have every interest in having the UK continue to be a member of the EU. The UK always has to take that decision itself but from a European perspective and a German perspective, I think this is most important and this is what I’m going to work on. We have shown very clearly that we are ready to address British concerns.”
Full article: UK edges closer to EU exit as David Cameron is crushed in bid to block Jean-Claude Juncker’s leadership (The Independent)