UK Politics

Cameron hails all-party support against Juncker bid

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Media captionDavid Cameron and Angela Merkel have clashed over who should head the European Commission, as Ben Wright reports

David Cameron says there is a political consensus in Westminster against Jean-Claude Juncker becoming president of the European Commission.

The prime minister was speaking after Labour said it opposed the former Luxembourg leader getting the job.

The UK opposition said Mr Juncker's record suggested he would make getting much-needed reforms "more difficult".

Mr Cameron hailed the support of "all major UK parties" as he held talks on the issue with other EU leaders.

Mr Cameron is meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for wide-ranging talks on the EU's future at Mr Reinfeldt's summer residence in Harpsund.

The person chosen to head the commission, the EU's executive body, will be one of the most contentious issues discussed during the two-day gathering.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The four leaders took to the river for a spot of relaxation before the talks began in earnest
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It's not clear if the next EC president was discussed during the boat trip
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption A boat trip is a regular treat for guests at the Swedish PM's country residence

Mrs Merkel has publicly backed Mr Juncker, the candidate nominated by party groups in Europe, but the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands are leading a campaign to block his candidacy.

Mr Cameron is strongly opposed to Mr Juncker's belief in a closer political union between EU member states and has described Brussels as "too big" and "too bossy".

His hand was strengthened on Monday when Labour said its MEPs in the European Parliament, which must approve the choice by EU leaders, would vote against Mr Juncker.

"The message from the European elections was clear - that we need reform in Europe," a spokesman said.

"We need reform so we can promote jobs and growth. Mr Juncker's record shows he would make these reforms more difficult."

Nick Clegg, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader, has already said he backs Mr Cameron's stance.

Image caption Mr Cameron said the UK, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands were all "strong, growing" economies

Mr Clegg, a former MEP, said: "What I want is for national governments to retain their right to decide who this is.

"I don't think Jean-Claude Juncker is the right person. We need someone in that position who will reform the European Commission, to help it grow and to help create jobs in this country," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

After Labour's intervention, Mr Cameron tweeted: "All major UK parties are now united on one point: Jean-Claude Juncker should not be President of the European Commission."

Speaking in Sweden, Mr Cameron said the issue of who ran the commission could not be separated from the need for Europe to shift its strategic focus.

"We want to see an EU which is more open, competitive and flexible - one that does less pointless interference but one that is effective in helping to get growth and jobs," he said.

"Obviously there is a link to that agenda and the people who should be running these institutions but this meeting today is really about content and what Europe should be doing in the next few years."

Mr Cameron also made clear he believed it should be up to the elected leaders of the EU's 28 member states to decide who headed the commission rather than "some new process that was never agreed".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The German chancellor has given Jean-Claude Juncker her backing

Juncker: For and against

Angela Merkel: German chancellor, after some hesitation, backed European People's Party candidate. Some in Germany believe she may be willing to discuss alternatives

David Cameron: Opposed to former Luxembourg PM's candidacy - said to see him as a "face from the 1980s" who cannot solve the problems of next five years

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Seen as opposed to Mr Juncker and reports in European media suggest Swedish prime minister himself could be compromise candidate

Mark Rutte: Opposed to Mr Juncker, and Dutch PM due to meet Irish prime minister after Swedish summit to discuss alternative candidates

EU leaders have traditionally named the commission head on their own, but new rules mean they now have to "take into account" the results of the European Parliament elections.

The European People's Party (EPP) grouping, of which Mr Juncker is a member, won the largest number of seats in May's polls, and he has argued that gives him a mandate.

The decision will be made by the European Council - the official body comprising the 28 leaders - by qualified majority vote. That means no single country can veto the choice.

The decision is expected at an EU summit on 26-27 June although an agreement by then is by no means guaranteed.

Mrs Merkel said the four leaders would not make a final decision on who they would back, adding that her position was well known.

Mr Rutte also told reporters that it was premature to put forward names for who should replace Jose Manuel Barroso as head of the commission.

"My belief is that we should first focus on content, discuss what the new commission should do... then discuss who fits that profile," he said.

The BBC's Ben Wright, in Harpsund, said the scene was set for a lengthy power struggle between EU leaders and the European Parliament over the appointment with the UK worried about the prospect of a "stitch-up".

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