Britain’s continued membership of the EU is to be the single largest issue in the next General Election. This explains why David Cameron took such a strong stance in rejecting the favourite candidate for the position of the President of the European Commission.
The powers of the President of the European Commission are more than significant. It will be Juncker who ultimately controls European wide trade deals, and agree bail out agreements for member states. Cameron wanted someone eager for European reform in order to ensure Britain’s continued membership after 2015.
It is an inherently British characteristic to be cautious of threats to our unique democratic yet traditional political structure. This became more evident in the European Elections, which saw Eurosceptic parties across all of Europe soar in popularity. Here, the party that epitomises euroscepticism is of course UKIP, who emphasised the supposed powerlessness of Westminster against Brussels to great electoral success. It is David Cameron’s aim to reform the EU in an effort to detract support from these parties, and ensure both Conservative success at the next general election and Britain’s continued membership of the EU.
Unfortunately for Cameron, Juncker is the opposite of the EU reformer that he had hoped for. A veteran politician of the old guard of Europe, Juncker helped draft the 1992 Maastricht treaty and served as Luxembourg’s Prime Minister for 18 years, making him the longest serving European Prime Minister. It would have been of great benefit to Cameron if a fellow reformer took the position of the President of the European Commission. Instead the position was taken by Juncker who advocates greater political, as well as economic powers of the European Union.
The election of Juncker does not make a British exit from the EU a certainty. However, it makes the Prime Minister’s job more difficult. It is his responsibility to persuade those who are of the opinion that the EU has far too much political power that Britain’s continued membership is a good thing. This is made even more difficult by the fact that it is likely that Juncker will want to expand and enforce the political powers of the EU. Cameron is going to have to work hard to achieve his ambitions of an EU which does not have a say in the legislative systems of member states.
In the run up to the next election it will be paramount that the Prime Minister actively engages with Juncker and the EU, in an effort to renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership. The next year will undoubtedly see Britain become more actively involved in EU affairs. As well as the economic benefits of Britain’s continued membership of the EU.
It is also in Cameron’s own interests to succeed in Brussels. If he is able to nurture a stable and mutually beneficial relationship between Westminster and Brussels, it would greatly increase his chances of a Conservative win at the 2015 general election.