David Cameron arrives for the second day of the EU Council on June 27, 2014 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Cameron's failure to block Juncker isn't a glorious defeat

Britain looks closer to the EU exit than ever - an outcome the PM never wanted.

Through an act of political alchemy, David Cameron is seeking to turn his failure to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker being nominated as the next president of the EU commission into a success.  The Prime Minister wants this outcome to be seen as a glorious defeat, casting himself as the plucky Brit who stood alone (along with hard-right Hungary) against the federalist foe.

He shouldn't be allowed to rewrite history. When Cameron made his opposition to Juncker clear three weeks ago it was in the belief that other European leaders, most importantly Angela Merkel, would rally to his cause. They didn't. Rather than siding with Cameron, Merkel publicly rebuked him for warning that Juncker's nomination would threaten Britain's EU membership. For the first time since Cameron pledged to hold an in/out referendum by the end of 2017, the Conservative hypothesis that this vow would make it easier to secure concessions was stress-tested - and exploded almost immediately.

As pro-Europeans warned at the time of the PM's Bloomberg speech, it is patient alliance-building, not blackmail, that is required for progress in Europe. Cameron's utter failure in this regard was helpfully exposed on Monday when the Polish government's private view of his strategy was published by Wprost magazine. The foreign minister of a country that should be a natural ally of the UK was revealed to have declared that Cameron "fucked up the fiscal pact", believes in "stupid propaganda" and "stupidly tries to play the system". He added: "You know, his whole strategy of feeding them scraps in order to satisfy them is just as I predicted, turning against him; he should have said: 'fuck off!'. Tried to convince people and isolate [the sceptics]. But he ceded the field to those that are now embarrassing him."

It should never be forgotten that Cameron did not want to promise an in/out EU referendum. Along with other Conservative ministers, he voted against one in the House of Commons in 2011. The pledge was wrung out of him by recalcitrant backbenchers who took him hostage and have not relinquished their grip since.

There are plenty in Cameron's party who will relish Britain's isolation today. Some, espousing revolutionary defeatism, will even welcome Juncker's nomination. As Marxists used to say, "the worse things get, the better". But they are those whose only concern is to force Britain out of the EU by whatever means possible. It was precisely to avoid capitulating to this faction that Cameron resisted granting a referendum for so long. But he gave way, insisting that the EU could be reformed to Britain's tastes. The nomination of Juncker is a hammer blow to this notion. Not only is the federalist's victory proof of the UK's feeble influence, it will also make it far harder to secure any significant concessions on the free movement of labour and the principle of "ever closer union". Never in 41 years of membership has Britain looked closer to the EU exit door - and that is not an outcome that Cameron ever wanted.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

A second referendum? Photo: Getty
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Will there be a second EU referendum? Petition passes 1.75 million signatures

Updated: An official petition for a second EU referendum has passed 1.75m signatures - but does it have any chance of happening?

A petition calling for another EU referendum has passed 1.75 million signatures

"We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum," the petition reads. Overall, the turnout in the EU referendum on 23 June was 73 per cent, and 51.8 per cent of voters went for Leave.

The petition has been so popular it briefly crashed the government website, and is now the biggest petition in the site's history.

After 10,000 signatures, the government has to respond to an official petition. After 100,000 signatures, it must be considered for a debate in parliament. 

Nigel Farage has previously said he would have asked for a second referendum based on a 52-48 result in favour of Remain.

However, what the petition is asking for would be, in effect, for Britain to stay as a member of the EU. Turnout of 75 per cent is far higher than recent general elections, and a margin of victory of 20 points is also ambitious. In the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland, the split was 55-45 in favour of remaining in the union. 

Unfortunately for those dismayed by the referendum result, even if the petition is debated in parliament, there will be no vote and it will have no legal weight. 

Another petition has been set up for London to declare independence, which has attracted 130,000 signatures.