Cameron secures EU vote over Juncker, says No 10

The PM has won an agreement on a vote for the future European Commission president, Downing Street claims. But at what cost?

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David Cameron has been in a bit of a scuffle over recent weeks with our European counterparts over who will take the position of the next president of the European Commission. He has vocally opposed Luxembourgian politician Jean-Claude Juncker, seen as "the face of federalism", even threatening to campaign for a "no" vote in a future referendum on Britain's EU membership if Juncker were to be appointed.

However, No 10 sources have told the website PoliticsHome that the president of the European Council Herman van Rompuy has accepted the PM's request for a vote on the European Commission presidency, following a "full and frank" meeting between the pair in Downing Street.

Van Rompuy agreed that a vote will be held over Juncker's nomination for the role, although the details of the ballot - which is unprecedented - haven't been worked out yet.

Although Downing Street are briefing a victory for Cameron on this thorny EU issue, Nick Clegg said a decision on the vote "hasn't been taken yet", after meeting Van Rompuy himself.

Even if No 10 is correct and a vote is secured, this battle comes at quite a cost for Cameron and his influence in Europe. With Britain already at risk of being sidelined and resented in the EU, due to the euroscepticism among its leaders and MEPs, the Prime Minister has made the situation worse for Britain by kicking up such a fuss over Juncker. If the vote goes ahead, the contempt in Europe for Britain means it is unlikely to win.

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was forced in an interview on the Today programme this morning to concede that Britain is isolated in Europe.

A leaked tape recently revealed the Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski saying Cameron has "fucked up" his handling of the EU and has fallen for the "stupid propaganda" of eurosceptics.

He added: "[Cameron suffers from] a kind of incompetence in European affairs... It's either a very badly thought through move, or, not for the first time, a kind of incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He fucked up the fiscal pact. He fucked it up... Simple as that. He is not interested, he does not get it, he believes in the stupid propaganda, he stupidly tries to play the system."

And these comments are from a man who was, like Cameron, at Oxford and in the infamous elite drinking society, the Bullingdon Club.

Cameron needs to pick his battles in the EU. This isn't one of them. Aside from anything else, it is not electorally beneficial to Cameron at home to fight an unknown Luxembourgian grey man who his electorate, and probably quite a few of his MPs, won't have known about, or at least been concerned about, before the recent wranglings.

Also, if he is hoping to renegotiate Britain's place in the EU - which he must attempt to do now he's pledged a referendum - he is going to have to retain a shred of credibility and respect in the European community. With ministers from other EU states swearing and laughing behind his back, he may be going in the opposite direction. Fellow government ministers will say he is fighting for Britain's national interest - and he may have won this battle, but it'll take him one step further away from winning the war.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

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