Britain's next EU commissioner: Runners and riders

Andrew Mitchell, Owen Paterson, Andrew Lansley and Peter Lilley Andrew Mitchell, Owen Paterson, Andrew Lansley and Peter Lilley

Related Stories

Who will be Britain's next EU commissioner?

The mandate of the current European Commission, including Britain's Baroness Ashton expires at the end of October and the manoeuvring for Britain's nomination to the key post is under way.

It's a plum job - power and influence at a key moment for Europe, a team of advisers and assistants with a salary of around a £250,000.

So it's no surprise speculation is already rife as to who will be our next man or woman in Europe.

But one figure, widely tipped as a leading contender has already ruled himself out.

Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox told me: "No - I have no intention of leaving the House of Commons in the foreseeable future."

He said that with a very important general election looming and a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU if the Conservatives win, it was no time to be deserting these shores.

'Huge challenge'

So who else?

Start Quote

Lord Mandelson

Obviously somebody like Andrew Mitchell or Andrew Lansley would have more influence should they be appointed than hard-nosed anti-Europeans like Peter Lilley or Owen Paterson”

End Quote Lord Mandelson Former EU Trade Commissioner

Andrew Mitchell, the former government chief whip has some support - but outstanding court cases over the Plebgate affair could scupper his chances.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson's hardline views on Europe and climate change may count against him.

Leader of the House Andrew Lansley is more consensual but some colleagues feel he lacks flair.

Former cabinet ministers Cheryl Gillan and Caroline Spelman have dismissed suggestions they could be in the running.

One name does keep cropping up - Peter Lilley, the eurosceptic former trade and industry secretary.

He told me: "It's the only job I can imagine that would persuade me to leave Parliament because its just so important, such a huge challenge.

"I would relish it, were I offered it, but other names are also in the fray."

Whoever does get the job could play a pivotal role in the renegotiation of Britain's relationship with the EU, which David Cameron has promised if he wins the next election.

Horse-trading

Mr Lilley said he had always described himself as a Eurosceptic who believed the EU has gone too far towards centralisation and the prime minister could have confidence he would not "go native" if appointed to the Commission.

Berlaymont building, the European Union Commission headquarters in Brussels The new commissioner will be based at the Berlaymont building, in Brussels

There will be huge pressure from Conservative MPs to choose a Eurosceptic who will fight hard to claw back powers from the EU. But the process is immensely complicated. As a coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats will have a say.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, a pro-European who used to work in Brussels, will be determined to ensure whoever is appointed has a constructive approach to EU reform.

Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said his party did not have a veto on the choice, but Nick Clegg would want to influence the decision, to ensure the government chooses someone who wants Britain to stay in Europe and will engage positively with European colleagues.

Whoever emerges as Britain's favoured candidate must also get through all the horse-trading in Europe.

There will be numerous discussions in the margins of summits and meetings in the months ahead.

Key jobs

Portfolios will be allocated by the Commission President, who will be selected under a complex process this summer. Euro MPs will also be given a say on appointments.

Start Quote

Sir Menzies Campbell

For David Cameron I'm afraid it's a lose-lose situation”

End Quote Sir Menzies Campbell Former Lib Dem leader

Former Labour Cabinet Minister Lord Mandelson was EU Trade commissioner for four years.

He said it was vital that Britain gets one of the key economic jobs on the Commission, but that could be blocked by other European players if David Cameron proposes someone with hardline Eurosceptic views.

The Labour peer told me there is danger Britain will not get a serious portfolio, which would mean we would not be in a position to shape the future direction and agenda of Europe.

So who would he choose?

"Obviously somebody like Andrew Mitchell or Andrew Lansley would have more influence should they be appointed than hard-nosed anti-Europeans like Peter Lilley or Owen Paterson," said Lord Mandelson.

'Severely damaged'

He said it would be "counterproductive" to appoint a hardliner who would not get a weighty post and would quickly "sink without trace".

The prime minister could try to duck some of the controversy by appointing a business leader, but that risks leaving him without the political clout he needs in Brussels.

So the process represents a dilemma for David Cameron, who must balance competing demands and a Byzantine appointments process.

Sir Menzies Campbell said he believes there will be a row whatever Mr Cameron does.

He told me: "If he appoints what you might loosely call a pro-European, then those backbenchers in the Tory party who want Britain to come out of the EU or have a unique and quite different relationship with Europe will not be best pleased.

"If, on the other hand, he were to appoint a Eurosceptic, then his chances of getting the kind of agreements he wants in Europe after the election will be very severely damaged.

"For David Cameron I'm afraid it's a lose-lose situation."

Whoever gets the job will certainly face some big challenges - and of course within months of the appointment we could have a different government with very different priorities in Europe.

More on This Story

Related Stories

More UK Politics stories

RSS

Politics Live

  1.  
    12:27: US governor in London
    Chris Christie

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is on an official visit to London where he will hold meetings with David Cameron and George Osborne, as well as dining with the cabinet. The three-day trip comes amid increasing speculation that he will run for the Republican nomination for the 2016 US election. Gov Christie will also attend Sunday's match between Arsenal and Aston Villa which kicks off at 13:30.

     
  2.  
    12:18: Nicky Morgan: I'm in charge of education
    Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan

    Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has described as "complete nonsense" a newspaper report that Michael Gove was trying to 'backseat drive' her department. Read the full story about her comments on the Andrew Marr Show.

     
  3.  
    12:02: Key clip: Douglas Alexander
    Douglas Alexander

    You can now watch Labour's election strategist Douglas Alexander on the Andrew Marr Show refusing to rule out a coalition with the SNP.

    The shadow foreign secretary was repeatedly pressed on whether Labour would do a deal with Nicola Sturgeon's party in the event of a hung parliament but said he was "not going to play that game".

    Mr Alexander conceded the "polls are tough" for Labour but insisted the party was fighting for a majority.

     
  4.  
    11:54: Heseltine on Europe
    Michael Heseltine

    Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine argues for the UK to remain in the European Union on Sky's Murnaghan programme.

    Though "Britain has always had doubts about Europe" the UK always joins in out of "an overarching self-interest" in its trading partners, he says.

     
  5.  
    i100

    tweets: Why women in politics still have a long way to go, in 7 charts http://i100.io/MuQHobe

    Leaders
     
  6.  
    11:45: NI peace process

    Former Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy has said establishing peace has taken longer than expected. Speaking to BBC Wales' Sunday Politics, he said process was "a bit slower than we thought".

    "I didn't think the process was going to last quite as long as that. But it did. It's 10, 15 years before things started changing," he said.

     
  7.  
    11:42: Maude stepping down

    Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude will step down as an MP at the general election, the Conservatives have confirmed. The Tory MP for Horsham said that 32 years after entering parliament it was time to ''make way for a younger candidate'', PA News reports.

     
  8.  
    11:39: No 'back seat driving'

    The Cabinet Office has released a statement rejecting the Independent on Sunday's story that former education secretary Michael Gove is still "back-seat driving" the Department for Education.

    It says: "The Independent on Sunday's story is totally untrue. The Chief Whip's office has not received, handled or put into the red box any of the Education Secretary's paperwork."

     
  9.  
    11:35: Miliband defended

    Ed Miliband's campaign manager Lucy Powell dismisses stories of senior figures chipping away at the Labour leader's credibility as "more about the agendas of newspapers than what colleagues are feeling".

    Speaking on Sky's Murnaghan programme Ms Powell says she "totally disagrees" with former health secretary Alan Milburn's comments on the NHS and millionaire donor John Mills comments on privatisation, and describes them as "deeply unhelpful".

     
  10.  
    UKIP Leader Nigel Farage
    Nigel Farage

    tweets: As of this moment I'm returning as a fully paid up member of the drinking classes! #dryjanuary #DryJanuaryIsOver

     
  11.  
    11:13: 'Sharpening the knives' The Daily Mail
    Ed Miliband

    The Mail on Sunday is reporting that senior figures in Labour are "sharpening the knives" for Ed Miliband. The paper highlights criticism of ""mansion tax" plans by a Labour donor, and criticism of NHS strategy from former Health Secretary Alan Milburn.

     
  12.  
    11:11: Key clip: Nicky Morgan
    Nicky Morgan

    You can now watch a clip of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on the Andrew Marr Show. "If we don't get it right at primary, then it becomes much harder for children to catch up," she says.

     
  13.  
    10:54: Youth-KIP
    Youth Independence

    The BBC's Leala Padmanabhan has been talking to UKIP's 3,000-strong youth wing, known as "Young Independence" which is determined to tackle what some have described as the party's "young people problem".

    Recent polls, including a survey by ComRes, suggest voters in the over-65 category are twice as likely to vote for the party as 18-25 year olds.

     
  14.  
    10:51: Labour on education

    Tristram Hunt MP, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, has responded to Nicky Morgan on the Andrew Marr Show, blaming "David Cameron's flawed schools policy" for "failing to close the learning gap between disadvantaged children and the rest".

    Responding to the education secretary's plan to tackle illiteracy and innumeracy, Mr Hunt said: "The surest way to raise standards in every lesson, in every school, is to improve the quality of teaching in the classroom. That begins with an end to Cameron's unqualified teachers policy."

     
  15.  
    Andrew Neil Presenter, Sunday Politics

    tweets: Sunday Politics coming up immediately after the tennis on BBC1. Who's winning?

     
  16.  
    10:29: Salmond on Murnaghan
    Salmond

    Alex Salmond tells Sky's Murnaghan programme that another referendum on Scottish Independence would not form part of any coalition negotiations.

    Scotland has already "set the gold standard " for establishing a national referendum, Mr Salmond says: If Scottish people want another referendum on Scottish independence they should vote for a party that promises one.

    Dermot Murnaghan reports Andy Murray has lost the first set in the Australian Open: "It's just like the referendum," replies Salmond.

     
  17.  
    10:26: Salmond on Murnaghan

    Former Scottish first minister, and prospective parliamentary candidate, Alex Salmond tells Sky's Murnaghan programme he is "not ruling out" a coalition with Labour that would make him Deputy Prime Minister after the general election.

    However "a formal coalition is unlikely" he warns. In his experience "the best way to affect change is to negotiate on a vote by vote basis" he says. But "who'd want to give either David Cameron or Ed Miliband a majority?" Mr Salmond asks.

     
  18.  
    10:24: Union hits back at Boots CEO

    Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB union, has been reacting to comments by the acting CEO of Boots who said a Labour government would be a "catastrophe" for the UK.

    Mr Kenny says: "This is the same boss who used private equity to take Boots private and move the domicile off shore to stop paying corporation tax since 2007. Given the amount of taxpayers money Boots get from NHS you would think this guy would keep his head down. There used to be the slogan 'no taxation without representation'. Surely the opposite is equally true."

     
  19.  
    10:14: Ex-Army chief on IS

    Former head of the army Lord Dannat tells Sky News' Dermot Murnaghan that Islamic State (IS) can be beaten.""if there is the right degree of equipment, training and support from ourselves".

    Lord Dannat warns this will be a "generational struggle" and tells Murnahan the coalition against IS has "to grow" for this to work.

    There has been international outrage after a video appearing to show the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto by an IS militant appeared online.

     
  20.  
    09:56: Syriza on Marr
    Marina Prentoulis

    Catching up with an earlier Marr interview now. The academic Marina Prentoulis, from Syriza London, was on the show, talking about the new Syriza government in Greece which seems determined to carry out its campaign promise, to overturn years of enforced austerity.

    Ms Prentoulis, from Syriza London, called on the Labour Party to support that fight against austerity.

    "Any person who calls themselves a socialist should come out against austerity," she told Marr.

     
  21.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: So close and yet....anyone else finding this agony? @BBCSport: Novak Djokovic takes the first set 7-6 on a tie-break. @BBCOne @bbc5live

    (BBC Sport has live coverage of the Australian Open tennis final)

     
  22.  
    Editor of @SchoolsWeek Laura McInerney

    tweets: I think Nicky Morgan has said "since I've been going around the country" - about ten times. It's the new "as a mum". #Marr

     
  23.  
    09:50: Morgan on Marr

    Nicky Morgan dismisses claims that her predecessor Michael Gove is "back seat driving" the education department as a "complete load of nonsense."

    Michael Gove has been "nothing but supportive", and while he may have seen some departmental briefings in his role as Chief Whip Ms Morgan affirms "I am in charge of the Department of Education".

     
  24.  
    The Andrew Marr Show

    tweets: Morgan - It is an 'outrage' if students leave school with qualifications that do not help them to enter the world of work #marr #marrshow

     
  25.  
    09:47: Morgan on Marr

    Asked by Andrew Marr whether schools funding for ages five - 16 will be "ring fenced" under a Conservative government Nicky Morgan nods. She tells Marr that she is "fighting" for the funding.

     
  26.  
    09:43: Nicky Morgan on Marr
    Nicky Morgan on The Andrew Marr Show

    Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is on the Andrew Marr Show, defending her "war on illiteracy and innumeracy" which includes new plans to get all children to know their 12 times table when they leave primary school.

    "Getting... the absolute basics right has to be at the core of our education system," she says.

     
  27.  
    09:38: Alexander on Marr

    Douglas Alexander refuses to be drawn on whether he will make a deal with SNP and Sinn Fein to from a majority government after the general elections. But he accuses the Conservatives of trying to "split the vote on the left" after they tweeted a mocked-up picture of Ed Miliband alongside SNP politician Alex Salmond and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, with the caption: "Your worst nightmare just got even worse."

    Labour has vowed not to feature Prime Minister David Cameron on its campaign billboards ahead of the general election.

     
  28.  
    The Andrew Marr Show

    tweets: Alexander - Voting for the SNP in the general election will result in a Conservative government

     
  29.  
    09:34: Alexander on Marr

    Douglas Alexander is pressed on the challenge facing Labour in Scotland, where Andrew Marr suggests his own seat is under pressure. "The polls are tough", Mr Alexander says, adding that he realises there is an appetite for change north of the border. But he says "I share that appetite for change" and adds: "The way we can secure that change is to deliver the maximum number of Labour MPs..."

     
  30.  
    09:28: Alexander on Marr
    Douglas Alexander on The Andrew Marr Show

    Labour election strategist Douglas Alexander tells the Andrew Marr Show: "We face a challenge to secure a recovery that reaches beyond the city of London and reaches kitchen tables right around the country."

     
  31.  
    Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: first question to @NickyMorgan01 on @MarrShow is surely 'whats 12 x 12?'

    Robin is of course referencing the education secretary's "war on illiteracy and innumeracy" which state that all children in England will need to know up to their 12 times table when they leave primary school.

     
  32.  
    Guardian political editor Patrick Wintour

    tweets: Some pointed advice from Andrew Rawnsley for Tony Blair - time to say whose side you are on.

     
  33.  
    09:13: Papers on Marr
    Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton and impressionist Rory Bremner are doing the paper review to get The Andrew Marr Show under way

    Reviewing the newspapers on the Andrew Marr Show, impressionist Rory Bremner picks out the Observer's story on what it says is an acute shortage of beds for young mental health patients. This will be a "critical area" for the next government to get involved in, the comedian says. His fellow paper reviewer is Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton.

     
  34.  
    Labour press team

    tweets: Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary @DAlexanderMP will be speaking to the @MarrShow this morning on @BBCTwo at 9am

     
  35.  
    08:50: 'Back seat driving' The Independent
    The Independent on Sunday

    The Independent on Sunday claims former Education Secretary Michael Gove is still "back-seat driving" his old department and maintains a "shadowy influence" behind the back of his "more teacher-friendly" successor Mrs Morgan.

    The paper says the chief whip still receives paperwork related to Department for Education issues.

     
  36.  
    08:44: New beds crisis
    The Observer

    The Observer leads on what it says is an acute shortage of beds for young mental health patients in the NHS.

    According to guidelines from NHS England, leaked to the Observer, 16 and 17-year olds, who should be admitted to specialist child adolescent mental health facilities (Camhs), are likely instead to be admitted to adult wards.

     
  37.  
    08:41: 'War on illiteracy' Sunday Times
    Sunday Times

    The Sunday Times's top story (paywall) is Education Secretary Nicky Morgan's "war on illiteracy and innumeracy". The paper says she plans to remove head teachers from schools where 11-year-old pupils cannot pass tests on basic English and times tables.

     
  38.  
    08:37: Miliband attacked The Daily Telegraph
    Telegraph

    Ed Miliband has faced criticism from a leading business chief who said a Labour government would be a "catastrophe" for the UK.

    Stefano Pessina, acting chief executive of Boots, said in an interview with today's Sunday Telegraph that Mr Miliband's plans were "not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end, it probably won't be helpful for them".

    He did not elaborate on which specific policies of the party he disliked but told the newspaper: "If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe."

     
  39.  
    08:33: Sunday papers
    Papers

    It is a very mixed - and highly politicised - Sunday for headlines in the nationals. You can read the full write up from our online paper reviewers. But we'll also break it down into bite-sized chunks for you in the next few entries.

     
  40.  
    08:28: Coming up

    A few must watch items for your Sunday morning:

    The Andrew Marr Show is at 09:00 when Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander will be on the sofa. You can watch via the Live Coverage tab at the top of this page.

    Sunday Politics, tennis permitting, at 11:00 will hear from Culture Secretary Sajid Javid and Labour MP Tom Watson. Again, watch live on this page.

    Other options for your Sunday morning political fix include Pienaar's Politics from 10:00 to 11:00 on BBC radio 5Live and we'll also bring you updates from the Murnaghan programme, over on Sky News from 10:00-12:00.

    And of course you may want to keep one eye on events in Melbourne too, where Andy Murray is taking on Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open tennis final. The BBC has live coverage here.

     
  41.  
    08:20: Good morning

    Hello and welcome to Politics Live. Over the course of the next 10 hours we'll be bringing you all the news, views and analysis as it happens from the BBC's political team in text and video - including all the key moments from the Andrew Marr Show, Sunday Politics, the World This Weekend and reaction to the big Sunday newspaper stories. You can see how Friday, which was a Churchill remembered special, unfolded by clicking here.

     

Features

Elsewhere on the BBC

Programmes

  • Crashed droneClick Watch

    Drone maker introduces no-fly zones in the US, plus other technology news

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.