Cameron ready to force EU vote on Juncker

22nd June 2014, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron will force fellow EU leaders to vote on who should head the bloc's executive body if they try to impose Jean-Claude Juncker, Downing Street sources said Sunday.

Cameron, who views the former long-serving Luxembourg prime minister as a federalist who will not adopt the modernising reforms he says the European Union badly needs, has vowed to "fight this right to the very end".

London feels Juncker is an EU insider to the bone, who will not heed the backlash voters inflicted in last month's European Parliament elections, but instead press on regardless with Brussels business as usual.

European centre-left leaders meeting in Paris on Saturday backed Juncker -- who is from the centre-right -- and the row is set to dominate the two-day summit of all 28 EU leaders starting Thursday.

"The Social Democrats accept that... Juncker must be president of the European Commission." said Germany's Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who heads the country's Social Democrats and also attended the Paris talks.

Cameron, who leads Britain's centre-right Conservatives, wants a delay in the nomination process in an effort to find a consensus candidate.

However, if leaders are unwilling to consider any alternatives to Juncker, Cameron will call a vote, forcing his counterparts from around Europe to say why Juncker should be eased into the job unopposed.

"British officials have been clear... that if there was the political will to find consensus then the decision on commission president could and should be delayed but if leaders are not even willing to consider alternative names, despite their widely expressed misgivings, then a vote should take place," a Downing Street source said.

Cameron "believes it is important that each leader sets out their position clearly when such an important principle is at stake -- handing power to the parliament through a back-room deal."

EU leaders have traditionally named the commission head on their own, but under new rules they now have to "take into account" the results of European parliamentary elections last month, though exactly what that means remains unclear.

Juncker, the former head of the Eurogroup of nations that use the single currency and prime minister of Luxembourg for 19 years, was the chosen candidate of the centre-right bloc that won most seats in the European Parliamentary elections.

Britain argues that having an EU insider in the commission's top job will further alienate voters who have already deserted mainstream parties in droves to support eurosceptic and far-right groups in the EU parliament elections.

- Poll highlights UK hostility to EU -

Meanwhile an Opinium poll in British newspaper The Observer found that 48 percent of people would "definitely" or "probably" vote to leave the EU, while 37 percent said they would definitely or probably vote to stay in.

Cameron has promised an in-or-out referendum on Britain's EU membership by the end of 2017 if he remains in office after the May 2015 general election.

He wants to attempt a renegotiation of Britain's relationship with Brussels and then put the result to the vote.

The poll found that if Cameron secured a deal which "redefined the terms of Britain's membership" then 42 percent would likely vote to remain in the EU, with 36 percent saying they likely vote the other way.

But just 18 percent thought it likely that Cameron would be able to secure "satisfactory" terms, with 55 percent saying it was quite or very unlikely.

Opinium conducted 1,946 online interviews from Tuesday to Thursday.

© 2014 AFP

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