Cameron picked the fight, but defeat is looming

David Cameron's hopes of derailing a Juncker presidency look to be over. Photo: MAJA SUSLIN / TT/TT News Agency/Press Association Images

The mood music has changed substantially. Just last week sources in the European Commission were briefing that Jean-Claude Juncker was on the point of withdrawing his candidacy to be the new President of the Commission (he denied it).

Today, in a 180 degree about turn, the talk is of the Luxembourgeois being a shoo-in for the job.

What’s changed? Well not much, except that Germany’s Chancellor Merkel has made up her mind, and will, by all accounts, demand that J-C Juncker be installed at the European summit in 10 days time. And when the great lady speaks, the rest of Europe falls dutifully into line.

Well, perhaps not David Cameron and the UK, who will scream a fair bit and then sulk a lot, and then talk even more about ‘Brexit’, but for everyone else on the continent these days, politics is a bit like football.

You talk discuss, debate, sometimes even vote, for the full 90 minutes, and then at the end the Germans win.

Jean-Claude Juncker looks set to become the next European Commission President. Credit: Helen Atkinson/The Times/PA Wire/Press Association Images

So Britain will have to live with an(other) arch-Federalist at the helm of the EU’s ship of state, a man who makes little secret of his disdain for the UK and for British views of Europe.

To make matters worse for Cameron, the European Parliament will have won a significant victory over national Governments on the question “who runs Europe”.

It is fair to say that not even the framers of the Lisbon Treaty ever imagined that a provision for the Commission President to be selected after “taking into account the elections to the European Parliament” meant that the Parliament got to choose who it wanted and that was that.

But this is how it has played out, and not even the unhappiness of the British, Dutch, Swedes, Hungarians and Italians was enough to stop it. Even the French weren’t particularly enthused by Juncker.

Angela Merkel was reported to have shared Mr Cameron's scepticism about Mr Juncker. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Ironically enough, the other person who didn’t think much of him was Angela Merkel herself, but she came under intense pressure at home to ‘do the democratic thing’ and appoint the candidate of the biggest group in the new Parliament.

And when push comes to shove, Frau Merkel regards her own domestic position as significantly more important than the difficulties of David Cameron. Which is a lesson to all those who think she might help him win a ‘new deal’ ahead of a 2017 referendum.

Juncker’s appointment will be a significant defeat for Cameron. The credibility of his claim that he can win powers back from Brussels before the referendum, will be in tatters.

He picked a fight here which, in the light of the eurosceptic surge in the European elections, he thought he could win.

He couldn’t.

He thought widespread voter dissatisfaction with the direction Europe was heading was enough to start changing that direction. But he clearly hasn’t spent enough time studying the recent history of the EU.

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