Jonathan Hill, former leader of the House of Lords, is Britain's new European Commissioner. Photo: YouTube screengrab
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The PM will try to secure a top job for his new European Commissioner

David Cameron, who has already kicked up a futile and unnecessary fuss over the European Commission presidency, must go to Brussels and try for a top job for his new man in Europe.

The Prime Minister is off to Brussels today in an attempt to secure a juicy job for his new man in Europe, Jonathan Hill, who was appointed European Commissioner yesterday during a big government reshuffle.

Apparently the best roles for Britain’s European Commissioner would be trade, competition, or internal market – as our brand new Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the Today programme this morning, “it would certainly help us” if Hill were to be handed one of these three briefs. “These are portfolios of interest to us, but not just for the UK… we want to see the EU get back on the right track,” Fallon continued.

There’s just one problem for Cameron. It's the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who is the person who gives roles to European Commissioners, and it was Juncker about whom the PM kicked up such a fuss before he was about to take the presidency.

To add to the PM’s popularity problem in the EU, there is also the fact that Hill – the ex-leader of the House of Lords widely described as a “backroom” operator – is not a high-profile figure, particularly not in Europe. This and the fact that he is an unelected figure has caused rumblings in Brussels corridors (as reported by the Today programme) that the UK just doesn’t take its European Commission place seriously.

As the BBC’s James Landale writes:

The big question now is whether the new Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will consider him [Hill] senior and experienced enough to win one of the big economic portfolios that Britain wants.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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What type of Brexit did we vote for? 150,000 Conservative members will decide

As Michael Gove launches his leadership bid, what Leave looks like will be decided by Conservative activists.

Why did 17 million people vote to the leave the European Union, and what did they want? That’s the question that will shape the direction of British politics and economics for the next half-century, perhaps longer.

Vote Leave triumphed in part because they fought a campaign that combined ruthless precision about what the European Union would do – the illusory £350m a week that could be clawed back with a Brexit vote, the imagined 75 million Turks who would rock up to Britain in the days after a Remain vote – with calculated ambiguity about what exit would look like.

Now that ambiguity will be clarified – by just 150,000 people.

 That’s part of why the initial Brexit losses on the stock market have been clawed back – there is still some expectation that we may end up with a more diluted version of a Leave vote than the version offered by Vote Leave. Within the Treasury, the expectation is that the initial “Brexit shock” has been pushed back until the last quarter of the year, when the election of a new Conservative leader will give markets an idea of what to expect.  

Michael Gove, who kicked off his surprise bid today, is running as the “full-fat” version offered by Vote Leave: exit from not just the European Union but from the single market, a cash bounty for Britain’s public services, more investment in science and education. Make Britain great again!

Although my reading of the Conservative parliamentary party is that Gove’s chances of getting to the top two are receding, with Andrea Leadsom the likely beneficiary. She, too, will offer something close to the unadulterated version of exit that Gove is running on. That is the version that is making officials in Whitehall and the Bank of England most nervous, as they expect it means exit on World Trade Organisation terms, followed by lengthy and severe recession.

Elsewhere, both Stephen Crabb and Theresa May, who supported a Remain vote, have kicked off their campaigns with a promise that “Brexit means Brexit” in the words of May, while Crabb has conceded that, in his view, the Leave vote means that Britain will have to take more control of its borders as part of any exit deal. May has made retaining Britain’s single market access a priority, Crabb has not.

On the Labour side, John McDonnell has set out his red lines in a Brexit negotiation, and again remaining in the single market is a red line, alongside access to the European Investment Bank, and the maintenance of “social Europe”. But he, too, has stated that Brexit means the “end of free movement”.

My reading – and indeed the reading within McDonnell’s circle – is that it is the loyalists who are likely to emerge victorious in Labour’s power struggle, although it could yet be under a different leader. (Serious figures in that camp are thinking about whether Clive Lewis might be the solution to the party’s woes.) Even if they don’t, the rebels’ alternate is likely either to be drawn from the party’s Brownite tendency or to have that faction acting as its guarantors, making an end to free movement a near-certainty on the Labour side.

Why does that matter? Well, the emerging consensus on Whitehall is that, provided you were willing to sacrifice the bulk of Britain’s financial services to Frankfurt and Paris, there is a deal to be struck in which Britain remains subject to only three of the four freedoms – free movement of goods, services, capital and people – but retains access to the single market. 

That means that what Brexit actually looks like remains a matter of conjecture, a subject of considerable consternation for British officials. For staff at the Bank of England,  who have to make a judgement call in their August inflation report as to what the impact of an out vote will be. The Office of Budget Responsibility expects that it will be heavily led by the Bank. Britain's short-term economic future will be driven not by elected politicians but by polls of the Conservative membership. A tense few months await. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.