Plans to enthuse voters by handing the winning party the Presidency of the European Commission are in ruins because neither the Conservatives nor Labour are playing along in Britain. In 27 out of 28 European countries the centre-right are being led by Jean-Claude Juncker from the European People’s Party, whereas the centre-left are being led by Martin Schulz from the Party of European Socialists. In Britain neither man can be seen.
The way the system works is that each political party in a country affiliates to a European Party. When they get elected they all work as one party and the biggest party will be given the Presidency of the European Commission. The hope was that having Presidential candidates would get more people interested in the project.
In Britain, however, the Conservatives left the EPP and set up their own small group called the European Conservatives and Reformists. This means that the EPP have no political party in the UK, so Britons cannot vote for Jean-Claude Juncker.
Similarly Martin Schulz is considered so toxic because of his anti-British views that the Labour Party have asked him not to campaign. Although they are affiliated to the Party of European Socialists, and a vote for Labour is a vote for Schulz, they fear his appearance would lose them support.
To make matters worse for the Europeans David Cameron may well attempt to block the winning party from taking the Presidency. He is said to believe the new system is a power grab by the Europeans and in any case the most likely winner, Juncker, will have got no votes at all in Britain.
All the Lisbon Treaty says is that when the heads of government get together after the election they must pick a Commission President taking into account the result of the election. It does not say that the chosen candidate must be the Presidential candidate, although the nominee will need to be approved by the majority of the European Parliament.
The reason this odd situation has arisen is because the Europeans have taken it upon themselves to create the Presidential candidates without the approval of anyone else. In doing so they have created a system that is not really enshrined in law.
Juncker told the Guardian: “Cameron has to stick to the clear treaty rules. The treaty is the treaty. And whoever wins, wins.
“The question is not whether we are supported in Great Britain. The question is rather why does Great Britain not stick to the vote of the continental Europeans? There are another 27 countries who will have voted this way.”
But a senior British diplomat said: “It completely changes the way the EU is governed, the way the commission works. You can’t vote for the EPP in Britain. It’s preposterous, ludicrous.”
The British are also privately saying that Cameron is not the only head of government who is willing to go against the Presidential system. But despite his determination is a very rare for Britain to gain a concession from the EU, and it has almost never taken back a power that Brussels took off it.
Jean-Claude Juncker is the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg and he has produced a campaign commercial for the European Commission Presidency which can be seen below: